At dawn, four protesters from the groups "Students for a Free Tibet" and the "Tibetan Youth Association in Europe" climbed up scaffolding on the UN building, currently under renovation, before jumping down to the middle of the facade using climbing ropes.
They then unfurled a massive banner reading: "China human rights, UN stand up for Tibet," and shouted: "Free Tibet!" UN security acted swiftly to cut down the banner and arrest the protesters, but also to grab journalists' press accreditation and usher them away from the scene.
"The protest went really great," Pema Yoko, the deputy director of Students for a Free Tibet, told AFP. It was important to draw attention to Tibet's plight, she insisted, stressing that "we expect China to blatantly lie about their rights record in Tibet."
At least 122 Tibetans have set themselves alight since February 2009 in protests against what they see as Chinese oppression, Yoko said. The protest took place just before China was set to undergo a widely anticipated review of its rights record before the UN Human Rights Council -- something required of each of the UN's 193 member states every four years.
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