Nicole Rycroft, the executive director of Markets Initiative, has been arrested in Beijing for her part in a pro-Tibet demonstration. According to her spokesperson, Bruce Walsh, Rycroft scaled a wall near the China Central Television building in downtown Beijing and unfurled a banner, which read Free Tibet in English and Chinese. Swaddled in a Tibetan flag, she then rapelled back down again.
Along with four other activists, Rycroft was picked up by the Beijing police shortly after the stunt took place in the early morning hours. Students for a Free Tibet, the group that organized the demonstration, has been closely monitoring the situation since then. According to the official release, the activists’ whereabouts are currently unknown, though Walsh says he expects that Rycroft has been released and put on a plane home. They want the protesters to go away as quickly and quietly as possible, he says.
In her native Australia, Rycroft was an elite track athlete who competed on a national level. She was on track to join the Olympic team before a back injury scuttled those plans.
Since then, she’s put all her drive as an athlete into being an individual activist and humanitarian, says Walsh. It was really important for her to [go to Beijing] because she has strong feelings about the ideals behind the games, which she feels have been totally corrupted by what China represents.
This isn’t the first time Rycroft has put her own safety on the line in pursuit of humanitarian goals. Before joining Markets Initiative, Rycroft worked to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in western Burma, which she blamed in part on China’s support of the Rangoon regime. She smuggled refugees through the Burmese-Thai border jungles under mortar attack, says Walsh. China has been in her sights for some time.
Walsh stresses that Rycroft took part in the demonstration as an individual, and not in her capacity at Markets Initiative.
(Below is a picture of the event, courtesy of SFA.)