Monday, August 25, 2008

Brian Conley leaves China

photo of Brian Conley(on the right) and Jeff Jarvis, c. 2006, courtesy

from a sequence of emails from Eowyn Rieke, Brian Conley's wife:

1.Brian Conley, founder of Alive in Baghdad was arrested Tuesday, August 19th while in Beijing. Press inquiries may be directed to

2. According to the US Embassy (last update received 11:30 pm US EDT Saturday, August 23) there has been no big change. They still anticipate that the 8 US detainees will be deported on August 30. They are advocating for earlier release, but have not received a response from the Chinese authorities.

We can increase the likelihod of early release by continuing to apply political pressure. If you are close friends or family of any of the detainees, or have good contacts in the offices of US Representatives, US Senators or the State Department please contact them and ask them to press the issue with the State Department and the US Embassy in Beijing.

We can also continue the pressure via media coverage. The Washington Post published an excellent editorial on Friday, August 22 and an article on Saturday, August 23. That should help elevate the issue of Tibetan repression and Chinese intolerance of free speech. But more is better! Please, keep talking to any press contacts you have, especially those in major media outlets.

We're in a dangerous time in the press cycle -- the Democratic National Convention is about to start and the Olympics are about to end. As a result the Beijing detentions and issues of human rights in China may just get lost or ignored.

If you want to get really mad, listen to "Reviewing the Beijing Olympics." At about minute 04:30 they discuss freedom of the press and repression of protests, stating "we believe that the police here are under orders not to detain people immediately if they are not causing a public disturbance." How utterly ridiculous and totally irresponsible. That section of the report ends with "It looks like the iron fist is increasingly gloved in velvet." Please please consider writing a letter to NPR asking them to produce a story that presents the truth about press freedom in China during the Olympics.

If you are in the New York Area, there are a bunch of solidarity events planned for tomorrow (Sunday, August 24). See the end of the email for more information.

There will be a special episode of Alive in Baghdad this week, with a short segment on Brian and his detention. Thanks to Students for a Free Tibet for helping us gather some information and footage.

And finaly, I've spent a lot of today pondering a question that came to me sometime last night -- If this is how the Chinese government treats US citizens when the eyes of the world are focused on China, what do they do to Tibetan and Chinese activists, who have no real rights, when no one is watching? I can't even imagine.

Keep an eye on the Free Tibet 2008 website, where you can get the most recent updates.

3. and finally,
We just got word that Brian and friends are on a plane to Los Angeles, arriving Monday morning. He was released with 7 other US citizen detainees: Jeff Goldin, Tom Grant, Mike Liss, James Powderly, Jeff Rae, John Watterberg and Jeremy Wells.

They have been released 6 days early, largely (we believe) because of political pressure and media attention that forced the US Embassy to take action.

The fate of the other 2 international detainees, Florian Norbu Gyanatshang a Tibetan with German citizenship, and Mandie McKeown from Britain, is not clear. Please feel free to call their respective embassies and urge their immediate release. For more info on phone numbers and other action steps, see the Free Tibet 2008 website.

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