A reported 3,000 journalists were at the Nuclear Security Summit 2014 from March 22 to 25 in the Netherlands, where 58 world leaders gathered to discuss ways to prevent nuclear terrorism around the globe. As is to be expected at such a widely publicized political gathering, protesters of many different creeds and causes were also present.
Two demonstrations in particular stood out – a protest organized by “Free Tibet” campaigners in Amsterdam and a protest organized by a pro-US Iranian group in The Hague.
The Free Tibet protesters demanded that new Chinese President Xi Jinping meet exiled Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and initiate talks on Tibet. Beijing considers Tibet to be part of China, but Tibetans call Chinese presence an occupation and accuse Beijing of numerous human rights violations.
Just as Xi was about to arrive at the summit, the protesters were taken by surprise when Chinese security officials erected a white partition to block the leader's view of the demonstration.
— Theo Reet I (@theoreet) March 22, 2014
Chinese security agents (left) place fences so Jinping does not see the pro-Tibet protests (right) in Amsterdam. pic.twitter.com/01kWejI6Am
— Ali Mohamoud (@AliMohamoud) March 22, 2014
Even Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan said he too was surprised at the move.
While the Dutch press has reported the incident, social media reactions in English were fewer:
Chinese censorship (re Tibet & Human rights) spreads to Amsterdam as soon as President Xi comes to visit… http://t.co/M7Hf2ky3TJ
— Deborah Klaassen (@deborahklaassen) March 24, 2014
The following day, the same protesters, this time in The Hague, said they would demand an inquiry into the incident to find out if Dutch police had helped the Chinese security officials and to see if the Netherlands will issue a diplomatic message to China, considering the Netherlands is rated as one of the highest in press freedom and free speech.
I narrated this incident to a Chinese journalist working for a major Chinese international news agency at the summit to know his opinion. Without much hesitation, he agreed with the actions taken by Chinese security officials as the “right thing to do”. In Chinese mainstream media, the Tibet-China conflict does not have much space, he said.
Pro-US Iranian protesters?
A group of Iranian protesters living in The Hague was given a prime spot in The Hague close to the summit venue, so much so that the demonstrators expected to wave to US President Barack Obama as he passed. Meanwhile the majority of protests were confined to Malieveld near The Hague Central railyway station far away from the The World Trade Forum.
Incidentally, a protest organized by Stop de NSS was not allowed to go further than the Den Haag Central station by cops who formed a barricade using their bicycles.
— Stop de NSS (@stopdenss) March 23, 2014
We cannot continue to walk to city hall
The Iranian protesters demanded US action to restrict Iran from developing its nuclear arsenal and called on the US not to negotiate with mullahs. Their proximity was not reported in the Dutch press, neither was it an issue on social media. Why was this group allowed to protest closest to the venue, whereas other protest groups were stopped? Was is to create public opinion in favor of the US taking action against Iran?