Taking the protest online, Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) is a global, grassroots network of students campaigning to free Tibet, which has been occupied by China since 1950. Students in Tibet face arrest for posting on the site, but many escape to blog about their experiences in exile. With a history of direct action, the group is now uniting worldwide members through the web, blogging to spread word of news and protests, and using sites like Facebook to raise funds. The organisation, which was founded in 1994 in New York, spans more than 35 countries and gets up to 100,000 hits a month. In 2006, SFT used a satellite link at Mount Everest base camp to stream live footage on to YouTube of a demonstration against Chinese Olympic athletes practising carrying the torch there. Later this year the web will be a critical tool in organising and reporting protests during the games. ‘SFT plans to stage protests in Beijing during the games and post blogs as events unfold,’ says Iain Thom, the SFT UK national co-ordinator. ‘But for security reasons we can’t reveal details of how or where yet.’ Similarly, a massive protest in London on 10 March will be the subject of intense cyber comment. In response, the site has fallen victim to increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks. Investigations have traced the sources back to China, leading to speculation that the Chinese authorities are trying to sabotage the site to stop online critics.
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