The home of a Tiananmen Square survivor has been raided by UK police who also confiscated his computer equipment – for holding protest signs in central London against visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Shao Jiang, a 47-year-old Chinese democracy activist and 1989 student leader, was "brutally manhandled" by Metropolitan Police outside London's Mansion House where a reception was being held for Jinping, Tibetan activists said.
Officers arrested him and put him into custody after he attempted to block the motorcade while wearing the Tibetan flag and raising two signs reading "End autocracy" and "Democracy now".
Along with Jiang, two Tibetan women – Sonam Choden, 30, and Jamphel Lhamo, 33 – were taken into overnight custody as they attempted to wave Tibetan flags. The homes of the three activists were then raided and searched by Met police and belongings taken away.
"I am appalled that their homes were searched... Any belongings of theirs confiscated, such as laptops, phones and USB sticks should be immediately returned," Tsering Passang, chairman of the Tibetan community in Britain, said in a statement. He added that Met Police "had completely overreacted".
The lawyer for the arrested women said in 40 years of legal experience they had never heard of people being arrested under Public Order Act for waving a flag. Section 5 of the act concerns threatening or abusive behaviour.
"My clients were arrested for what was a peaceful and what many would see as a legitimate non-violent protest concerning the treatment of their country by the Chinese regime," Bill Nash of BSB Solicitors said."This smacks of overreaction to a considerable degree. Perhaps it is time that we should focus some of our concentration on our own civil liberties at the same time as we criticise others for their stance on human rights."
The women said they "never expected to be arrested or to have to spend 24 hours in police custody".
Jiang's wife told the Independent that the arrest left them "traumatised". Jiang, a survivor of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, was rearrested in 1995 before fleeing China in 2003. Then, he settled in Sweden before coming to the UK. He is now an Amnesty International UK activist and PhD researcher.
"He was a student at Beijing university and helped draft the demands of the Tiananmen Square protests," Passang told IBTimes UK. Jiang was arrested three months after the massacre and spent 18 months in jail where he was subjected to endless questioning.
"It is really shocking for us that Met Police would arrest peaceful protesters," Passang said. "They were just raising a flag, isn't it allowed in the UK? If you do it in China you get arrested for 24 hours. It's really shocking that a similar thing is happening in a democratic country."
The three activists were released on police bail on Friday 23 October.
Jiang posted on Twitter the bail conditions, among them "not be with 100mts of the Chinese president Xi Jinping":
The Met said the arrest under the Public Order Act was just part of regular police work associated with public order and ceremonial events. A police spokesperson told the Guardian that Jiang was suspected for "having breached a secure area" around the motorcade.