Filmmaker Detained In China Chinese authorities detained a number of people believed to be aiding pro-Tibet protestors during the Olympics. Tom Grant, an independent filmmaker from New York City, was released Sunday after spending five days in a Beijing detention center.
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This is Day to Day. I'm Alex Chadwick.


I'm Madeleine Brand. In Beijing, the Olympic flame has been extinguished. The athletes have gone home, and so have some people who were arrested and imprisoned for protesting.

CHADWICK: One of them, American independent filmmaker Tom Grant. He went to Beijing at the end of July, a few weeks before the Olympics began. He was there to document a group called Students for a Free Tibet as they were attempting to demonstrate during the Games. Instead, he was arrested and repeatedly interrogated, and then he was sent to a detention center for five days.

BRAND: Tom Grant is now back in New York, where he spoke with me earlier today about his ordeal.

Mr. TOM GRANT (Independent Filmmaker): We were told to disrobe, put on red shorts, red shirts, going through metal detectors several times and then brought up to a second floor, you know, with two other people that were detained, actually James Powderly and Jeffrey Rae, the two people I was apprehended with to begin with, brought down this long corridor.

And next thing, they're opening one door and basically pushing Jeff into it, and I noticed there were about 12 people, all in the same uniform, laying down on these wooden cots, for lack of a better term. And at that point, it sort of dawned on me, like, oh, I'm being put into general population.

BRAND: With other - with Chinese nationals?

Mr. GRANT: All of this - we were separated into separate cells, and it seemed like, throughout all the cells, they were evenly split between Chinese nationals and foreign nationals.

BRAND: And did you know for how long you would be detained at that point?

Mr. GRANT: No, I had no idea. I had - no information was being given to us. Basically, we were just, like, go into the cell. We had two mealy blankets given to us, and we had to put that down on the wooden slats and, essentially, try to get some sleep.

BRAND: So for five days, what happened?

Mr. GRANT: The next day, 6:30 wake-up. Within a half hour, I was brought down to a smaller cell and put into to this very Orwellian chair, stainless steel with a rib strap, metal strap I was chained into. On the other side of the cell were this - the uniformed police officer I recognized from the night before and the interpreter.

BRAND: And they questioned you?

Mr. GRANT: They questioned me every single day for periods of six hours to 12 hours.

BRAND: What did they ask you?

Mr. GRANT: Essentially, what I was doing in Beijing. Who I was working for, the techniques that we were using to capture the images. How we were distributing them, what our motivation was. Who were the people we were in contact with. Who organized all of these events and how we got information to go to these events, and what to do with the media afterwards.

BRAND: Were you asked for and did you give any names of Chinese nationals or Tibetans?

Mr. GRANT: I was constantly asked names of people I was in contact with. Throughout the time, we mostly used pseudonyms, and we used SMS services, such as Twitter, to communicate. At that point, I mostly just knew code names, and that's all I gave them. Eventually, they grilled us further and further and further, and we gave up some names that we knew, and mostly, that was just first names.

BRAND: So are you worried at all that now, these people will be imprisoned and subjected to, well, to far worse treatment than you were subjected to?

Mr. GRANT: I gave no names of Chinese nationals or Tibetans that were within the country. Let me back up a little bit. Two days into the process, we were woken up at like two, three o'clock in the morning, brought down to these cells, shown these papers that were all written in Chinese pidgin, and told loosely that we were being sentenced to a 10-day detention, and that we had to sign the statement and give our fingerprints in red ink.

BRAND: So you don't know what you signed?

Mr. GRANT: No, every statement I wrote at the bottom, I do not read Chinese. This was translated to me orally.

BRAND: When were you released?

Mr. GRANT: We were released the afternoon of the 24th of August, actually about a half hour before the closing ceremonies began.

BRAND: And then what happened?

Mr. GRANT: We were driven very, very slowly towards the airport.

BRAND: And put on a plane and off you went?

Mr. GRANT: Well, we stopped at the airport, and the next thing we know, we were told that we were being charged for our flights home. Somebody at the American Embassy said it was probably not going to happen, but next thing I know, they had taken all of our Chinese currency (unintelligible) and at the same time taken our credit cards, and they began swiping our credit cards and charging us for the flights.

BRAND: So what about all the stuff that you brought, all the video equipment.

Mr. GRANT: At the airport, as they were processing our credit cards, I was told that all the items I brought in were illegal and were being seized, 10,000 dollars worth of equipment.

BRAND: Well, given what happened to you, given the fact that you weren't able to complete filming your documentary, would you have done anything differently? Would you have done it all over again?

Mr. GRANT: I'd do it in a heartbeat.

BRAND: Well, Tom, thank you very much for speaking with us today.

Mr. GRANT: Oh, thank you.

BRAND: That's American Tom Grant. He joined us from New York. He spent five days in a detention cell in Beijing during the Olympics. COST: $00.00

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