Pro-China activists harass Tibetan protesters in Hungary during Xi’s visit

They rip up banners and block the demonstrators with flags of China.
By Tashi Wangchuk for RFA Tibetan
2024.05.09
Pro-China activists harass Tibetan protesters in Hungary during Xi’s visit A Tibetan protester shouts surrounded by Hungarian police next to a Tibetan flag on Gellert Hill opposing Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Budapest, Hungary, May 9, 2024.
Denes Erdos/AP

Pro-China activists harassed Tibetan protesters in Budapest, Hungary, on Thursday during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit, ripping a big “Free Tibet” banner they had displayed, the protesters said.

The pro-China activists also waved at least 16 Chinese flags to hide from view Tibetan flags the protesters were holding, and blocked a Tibetan flag hanging on a bridge under which Xi’s motorcade had to pass under to go to a welcome reception.

Hungarian police standing nearby did not intervene, the Tibetan supporters said.

“These guys just came and ripped our banner, and they are still allowed to be here, pushing us further and further out,” Chime Lhamo, campaigns director of Students for Free Tibet, told journalists on the street. “Is this a free country?”

After the street encounter, the protesters were followed by what appeared to be about eight undercover police officers on their way to the Budapest airport, said one of the activists.

Tibetan protesters displayed Tibetan flags next to Chinese national flags on Gellert Hill to oppose Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Budapest, Hungary, May 9, 2024. (Denes Erdos/AP)
Tibetan protesters displayed Tibetan flags next to Chinese national flags on Gellert Hill to oppose Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Budapest, Hungary, May 9, 2024. (Denes Erdos/AP)

“Over the last few days, we were followed, harassed and intimidated by undercover Hungarian police, as well as Chinese people and police everywhere in the city,” Tenzin Yangzom from the International Tibet Network, told Radio Free Asia. “Everywhere in the city is swarmed by them.”

“We had come here to peacefully protest Xi’s genocidal policies in Tibet, East Turkistan, Hong Kong and beyond and the treatment of Tibetans, Hong Kongers, Uyghurs and Chinese people,” she said.

Paris protests

Xi arrived in the Hungarian capital of Budapest late Wednesday for the final leg of his five-day European tour that started in Paris and continued in Serbia.

His arrival in Paris on May 5 was met with protests, with Tibetan activists unfurling a large white banner on a bridge that said “Free Tibet. Dictator Xi Jinping, your time is up!” as his motorcade passed under it.

In Budapest,Tibetan protesters tried to hoist another such banner with the same message, this time in black, along with the Tibetan flag, on the Elizabeth Bridge, under which Xi's motorcade would have had to pass on its way to the presidential palace in Budapest on Thursday morning. But the Chinese activists disrupted them again.

Hungarian police headquarters in Budapest did not immediately respond to RFA’s request for comments and confirmation.

Tibetan activists and supporters prepare for a three-day protest in central Budapest, Hungary, on May 8, 2024, prior to a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP)
Tibetan activists and supporters prepare for a three-day protest in central Budapest, Hungary, on May 8, 2024, prior to a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP)

Ahead of Xi's arrival, Tibetans had gathered in central Budapest to protest his visit to Hungary and call for an end to human rights abuses in Tibet, which China annexed in 1951.

But Xi’s motorcade managed to avoid the Tibetan protesters in Budapest by taking an alternate route from the airport into Budapest.

“It is very difficult to stage protests here because there are many Chinese spies and police officials who are here,” Lhamo told Radio Free Asia.

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, one of Europe’s staunchest admirers of the Chinese Communist Party, has persistently opposed any criticism in the European Union of China’s human rights violations against Tibetans, Uyghurs and Inner Mongolians, as well as its policies in Hong Kong.

Additional reporting by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA Tibetan. Edited by Tenzin Pema for RFA Tibetan, and by Roseanne Gerin and Malcolm Foster.

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