Oklahoma City activist is expelled after pro-Tibet protest in Beijing

By Michael Kimball Modified: August 16, 2008 at 12:46 am •  Published: August 16, 2008
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Kelly Osborne wasn't planning on using the return leg of his round-trip airline tickets to Beijing. He was counting on the Chinese government to arrange him a speedy and safe return to his Oklahoma City family.

Friday, the Chinese government obliged. Osborne, 39, was one of five people arrested and deported Friday by Chinese authorities for unfurling a pro-Tibet banner on a Beijing Olympics billboard, according to a news release issued by Students for a Free Tibet.

Osborne's wife, Melissa O'Neil, 35, said her husband knew he would be arrested. She added the Chinese aren't paying for the change to her husband's itinerary, but Students for a Free Tibet is picking up the tab.

Osborne and two other Americans, a Briton and an Australian-Canadian, draped a banner reading "Free Tibet” in English and Chinese on the billboard during the early morning. Osborne assisted the others as two of the group rappelled down the billboard, which stands outside the headquarters of state-run China Central Television.

The banner apparently referred to alleged human rights abuses by the Chinese government in the Tibetan province.

Chinese security officials put the protesters on flights bound for their home countries, according to the release.

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Tibet conflict
Chinese leaders insist Tibet has always been a part of China, and dispute the claim that Tibet didn't become a part of China until it was forcefully occupied in 1951. The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959. The Dalai Lama has always preached nonviolence and never demanded independence from China, but has called Chinese policies in Tibet "cultural genocide.”

In a recent U.S. visit, the Dalai Lama repeated his insistence that he is not seeking independence.

But some young Tibetans are losing patience with the Dalai Lama's "Middle Way,” and the Dalai Lama himself seems to be feeling the pressure, warning during the demonstrations in Tibet that "if things become out of control, then my only option is to resign.”

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