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Tibet protesters target Terracotta Army exhibition at British Museum

March 18, 2008

From Times Online – The British Museum’s exhibition of China’s Terracotta Army was today targeted by pro-Tibetan protesters who hung placards with slogans around two of the statues’ necks.

Martin Wyness, 50, and Mark Trepte, 47, said they put placards on the warriors, saying “Stop Killing Tibetans” and “Boycott the Chinese Olympics.”

The protesters, from Hereford, claimed that onlookers clapped as they mounted the demonstration over the violent crackdown by the Chinese authorities in Tibet.

It is the second protest Mr Wyness has launched against Chinese policies since the Terracotta Warriors arrived in the UK.

Last October, he breached security at the museum to hang masks on two statues bearing the slogan “CO2 emission polluter” to highlight China’s poor environmental record.

He said he launched his latest protest because he wanted people in Britain to be aware of the ongoing brutality in Tibet.

“I was amazed that the bulk of people clapped when I did it, showing the British public is already behind Tibetans,” he said. “I want athletes to boycott the Olympics. Human life is more important than sport.”

The 12 life-sized warriors are on loan from China’s collection of 8,000 statues, made as an army to accompany emperor Ying Zheng into the afterlife.

The demonstration, which caused no damage to any of the figures, was taken very seriously by the museum as the statues originate from 221BC and are extremely fragile.

A museum spokesman said only one of the protesters had been detained, although would not say which one.

“The alarms went off within seconds, he was detained by security and police were called. It was all very, very quick. He managed to get a sign on, but there was no damage to the warriors,” a spokeswoman said.

“The point of the exhibition is it’s a unique opportunity to see the warriors up close. We’ve 750,000 people come in to see the exhibition, but unfortunately people very occasionally abuse it.

“They (the warriors) are pretty robust, but they’re fragile and we wouldn’t encourage anyone to touch them.”

A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said the protester had been forced to leave the building, but not arrested.

“We were called at around 12.20pm to calls of a protester who had wrapped a banner around a statue,” she said. “We escorted him from the building, but no arrest was made.”

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