Oded Balilty/ CP Photo
My Olympic message got me tossed out of China.
I made it to the Olympics, finally, sort of, on August 15 when I rappelled down a three-storey Olympics billboard in front of the China Central China Television building in Beijing to unfurl a 400-square-foot "Free Tibet" banner in English and Mandarin.
My four British and American colleagues and I made it past the 100,000 undercover security police and 300,000 surveillance cameras on duty for the Games to protest the absence of human rights in Tibet.
Over the two-week period in Beijing, 55 activists staged eight peaceful demonstrations in solidarity with Tibetans and were arrested, interrogated and deported (some after six days in jail).
I like the Olympics and understand what it means for athletes to dedicate their lives to excellence. I was an elite athlete in Australia. I stress-fractured my rib, and then a bout of glandular fever laid me low, forcing me to retire from my life as a rower training for the Olympics.
I took part in the action this summer as a former athlete, a person of conscience and someone who has witnessed first-hand the fear and intimidation Tibetans live under daily.
The subtitle of these Games was "the Games of Peace," but the activities of the regime spoke volumes to the world.
One memorable decree shut down iTunes after 40 athletes supposedly downloaded a new album entitled Songs For Tibet.
As perpetrators of an act of non-violent civil disobedience, we were treated far differently from nationals arrested for attempting to protest during the Games. No re-education. No labour camps.
Our action began early. It was a quick climb up the 50-foot billboard scaffolding to tie off and rappel over the front. We were in place by 5:45 am.
This was downtown Beijing, in front of the "face" of modern China. As expected, the police arrived quickly.
As I dangled 40 feet up on the end of the rope attached to the banner, 20 paramilitary personnel came running with batons drawn at two friends below.
I could see international film crews being hassled by 40 or ?50 police. My friends were being pulled off the scaffolding in quick succession.
On reaching the top, plain-clothes police started undoing ropes to bring the action to an end. With no guarantee that they weren't going to just undo the ropes anchoring the banner, we climbed to the top to join our other colleagues.
I was questioned alone in a holding room at a nearby police station. My friends were questioned in other rooms around the compound.
Our interrogation lasted two and a half hours. Routine questions - How long had I been planning this? Were there others? What did I know of Tibet? - sometimes asked cordially, sometimes not.
I was lectured about China's "liberation of Tibet." China's "presence," they said, has freed Tibetans from the feudal religious system of the lamas. They refused me access to my embassy.
A revolving door of senior police officers each took over my questioning briefly - generally long enough to have their photographs taken by a government photographer.
Within seven hours of being detained, we were on planes out of the country.
The Beijing Olympics certainly demonstrated China's talents in industry, feats of mass organizing and success in sport. Conspicuously absent is global leadership in the more ethically challenging project of providing and maintaining justice and freedom for both Chinese and Tibetans.
Finding a meaningful and peaceful resolution to the ongoing situation in Tibet may not seem easy after 60 years of occupation. But it can be. Rather than condemning Tibet to a bygone feudal era, it would empower world leaders in their own pursuit of peace and fair governance.