A message from the US embassy advises all American citizens to avoid attending protests being held by Friends of Tibet. A spokesperson for the embassy told the Grapevine that the warning was “routine”.
As reported, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao arrived in Iceland for a visit last Friday. Not everyone was entirely pleased with his arrival, among them the group Vinir Tibets, or Friends of Tibet, who take exception with China’s treatment of pro-independence protesters in Tibet. Friends of Tibet have organised protests of the visit in response.
A statement from the US embassy advises American citizens to avoid attending these protests, stating in part:
Although Icelandic authorities do not expect any violence, we urge U.S. citizens to avoid the area if possible, and to exercise caution near any demonstrations that may occur. Monitor local media and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational.
Grapevine contacted the US embassy and spoke to Public Affairs Officer Laura Gritz. She told us such a warning is routine. Similar warnings to US citizens in Iceland have been issued, for example, regarding volcanic eruptions.
“U.S. embassies worldwide routinely distribute messages informing U.S. citizens of potential threats to their health or safety, such as demonstrations or natural disasters. Over the past year, U.S. Embassy Reykjavik has issued five emergency messages: three related to demonstrations and two related to volcanic activity/potential glacial flooding,” she said.
Friends of Tibet is a very small organisation in Iceland, and there have been no violent incidents at any of their protests. DV has, though, reported violence in connection with the Premier’s visit – specifically, from his bodyguards towards members of the press.
They report that while journalists were allowed to accompany Wen Jiabao and his entourage last Saturday, they were not permitted to ask any questions. Ómar Valdimarsson, a reporter for Bloomberg, attempted to ask Wen Jiabao a question at Bessastaðir, the residence of the Icelandic president, regarding Bo Xilai, a high-ranking official in China who was recently fired from his party. A bodyguard for Wen Jiabao attempted to block Ómar from asking his question. When Ómar asked it anyway, the bodyguard pushed him. Ómar loudly exclaimed “Don’t touch me!” three times, and the bodyguard then backed off.