Late last night, ANIMAL reached newly freed activist Jeffrey Goldin by phone, one of the ten Americans released by Chinese authorities for pro-Tibetan activities during the Olympicsâ€”he was detained on August 19th along with James Powderly, Brian Conley, Jeffrey Rae, Michael Liss, and Tom Grant. Goldin described how he was jolted out of his hotel bed at around 2AM by eight secret police and later taken to a scary prison and interrogated about â€œEarth Mouse,â€ but more details on that later, first some set up.
The New Yorker went to China on behalf of the Students for A Free Tibet to “observe” and not specifically take part in demonstrations. But he did admit to cloak and dagger duties that included getting footage out. “If videographers got in trouble, they would try to pass their memory cards to me.”
Goldin had met with Powderly and the others earlier in the day in Beijing to discuss the high tech L.A.S.E.R. protest, but eventually trouble came. “That’s the night they picked us up.” After being taken to a basement of a hotel and interrogated one by one in conference rooms, the six were then put in vans and told they were going to be deported. However, the mini-caravan drove past the airport and continued on, straight to a prison. Goldin described arriving at the giant gate brimming with barbed wire and the foreboding watchtowers teaming with guards armed with fully automatic rifles. It was intimidating to say the least.
“They told us we committed serious crimes against the Chinese government,” said Goldin, and they placed them in separate cells. All were issued standard prison garb: red shorts and t-shirts with blue sandals. The scariest part of the short, yet stressful stay were the interrogation rooms according to Goldin. “There was a metal chair with a metal belt that they actually strapped you down to.” One of the most pressing questions the interrogators repeatedly asked them was “who is Earth Mouse?” Goldin denied he knew anything about this person. Apparently, ‘Earth Mouse’ was a “guy NOT inside China” who was helping coordinate and organize the Students for A Free Tibet’s actions via Twitterâ€”that’s right, there is an actual use for the micro-blogging service outside of sharing mundane daily details of your boring lives. “It was driving authorities crazy,” said Goldin, since most of those being arrested had digital correspondences from this ‘Earth Mouse’ operative.
During multiple interrogations, Goldin told his captors about the role the Students for a Free Tibet were playing in organizing peaceful demonstrationsâ€”giving away only pedigree information. When asked where the headquarters was located, he gingerly gave them the NYC address on west 14th street. He even agreed to show them the website to the utter shock of the authorities. They claimed there was no such group and that they couldn’t get onto the website. Not even this branch of the secret police could access the non-authorized site to confirm the details. He finally told them to read the International Tribune and check out all the press the group was generating with their peaceful demonstrations.
After being told they would receive 10 day sentences, Goldin said he was kind of relieved, since he figured they were no longer being considered “terrorists.” Despite the promise to hold them for a few more days, they were released early, and taken straight from the prison to the airportâ€”their belongings were waiting for them minus digital cameras and cash. Still, all of the activist’s credit cards were charged about $2K and they were put on an Air China flight to LAX. The handful of Americans arrived to a flock of reporters, but Goldin described how he was touched by the 40 or so women dressed up in traditional Tibetan garb and 4 monks who greeted the Americans with heartfelt embraces for their contributions to the cause. “Every time I tell the story it makes me tear up,” confessed Goldin who admits that he holds nothing against the Chinese people. “They are being lied to in ways you could never image!”