Dissidents from China and Tibet have accused London’s police of a significant overreaction after they were arrested and had their houses searched following peaceful protests against the visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping, the media reported on Saturday.
Shao Jiang, a survivor of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre now based in Britain, said he was shocked to be tackled by police after holding placards in front of Xi’s motorcade in London, and to learn his home had been searched and computers seized while he was in custody.
“It feels like it was when I was in China,” Shao told the Guardian, adding “Then, every time I was arrested the Chinese police would search my rooms and take things. It reminded me of that.”
Tibetan exile groups have also reacted with anger following the arrest of two women – Sonam Choden, 31, and Jamphel Lhamo, 33 – shortly after Shao for waving a Tibetan flag near Xi’s car. They also had their homes searched while under arrest.
Met police have reacted strongly to the accusations. The force released a statement from the officer in charge of policing Xi’s visit, Commander Lucy D’Orsi, saying she was “disappointed” at suggestions the force was trying to suppress legitimate protest at the instigation of China.
“The assertion that political manipulation of the command team or, indeed, the broader Metropolitan police took place is wrong and doesn’t reflect the facts,” D’Orsi added.
Police said they believed Shao and the women had been conspiring to commit threatening behaviour; all three has reject this claim.
The arrests took place on Wednesday afternoon as a motorcade carrying Xi and British Prime Minister David Cameron arrived at Mansion House in London for a ceremonial banquet. Video shows Shao being tackled forcefully by officers as he stood near the cars holding two small placards. Choden and Lhamo were arrested soon afterwards while waving a flag.