Chinese protesters threaten roof plunge

September 23, 2010 12:00 am

, SYDNEY, Sep 23 – Chinese nationals threatened to jump off a Sydney immigration detention building Thursday following days of rooftop protests by Sri Lankan Tamils and a suicidal leap by a Fijian inmate.

The nine Chinese, believed to be aged between 20 and 27 years and including a pregnant woman, have been on the two-storey building since 8:00 am Wednesday. One of them came down to speak to negotiators on Thursday afternoon.

"We are awaiting the outcome of this negotiation," refugee advocate Jamal Daoud told AFP. "We hope that it will end peacefully."

Television footage showed the man descending from the roof in a basket crane and being helped over thick blue mats which were placed on the floor after the group threatened to jump at 2:30 pm (0430 GMT).

Daoud, of the Social Justice Network, said the detainees still intended to take drastic action if their cases were not reviewed.

"They are threatening to jump from the rooftop," he said.

Another activist, Ramesh Fernandez, spoke to the group by telephone earlier through an interpreter and said they were dehydrated, having refused food and water for three days. One of the four women is reportedly two months\’ pregnant.

The protest follows a 30-hour standoff with a group of Sri Lankan Tamils which ended on Tuesday, and the death of a 36-year-old Fijian man who leapt off a roof a day earlier, traumatising fellow inmates.

Australia has a policy of mandatory detention for asylum-seekers while their claims are processed, and generally holds detainees on remote Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

But increasing numbers of illegal immigrants arriving by boat — more than 4,000 so far this year — have forced the reopening of mainland centres, including Sydney\’s Villawood facility, which houses about 300 people.

Activists say the Chinese, from the southeastern province of Fujian, arrived on tourist and student visas and are now seeking asylum. They have been detained for between two weeks and six months.



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