Over 400 Tibetans in Switzerland and their supporters held a demonstration in Bern on Sunday ahead of the state visit of China’s President, Xi Jinping. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
Police said it was a peaceful protest, away from the view of Chinese officials.
But during later protests in the so-called “security zone”, more than 30 people were arrested and officers had to prevent a pro-Tibet protester from setting himself on fire.
Pro-Tibetan protests in Bern in 1999, during President Jiang Zemin's visit, had angered the leader, who later told the Swiss government that they had “lost a good friend”. The Tibetan sympathisers unfurled “Free Tibet” banners in front of the Swiss parliament square.
Switzerland has the biggest Tibetan community in Europe, with more than 4,000 members. Many of them fled to Switzerland after the invasion (or liberation, according to the Chinese) of their country in 1950 by the troops of Mao Tse-tung, who had just re-unified China. It led to the exile of the 14th Dalai Lama. The spiritual leader set up a Tibetan government in exile in India and has demanded Tibet’s independence from China.
The Swiss government view is that there is only one China - the People’s Republic of China - and that Tibet is part of China.