Denmark to deepen investigation into police conduct during Chinese state visits

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark will investigate whether its police violated the rights of people who protested Beijing’s policy toward Tibet during Chinese state visits to Copenhagen in 1995 and 2002, the justice minister said on Wednesday.

Several protesters were detained and prevented from displaying Tibetan flags when then Chinese president Hu Jintao visited the Danish capital six years ago and a court in 2013 found police had breached their right to free speech.

The 2012 investigation was reopened last week and should be expanded to cover two prior state visits because of new information from police discovered in an email archive, said Justice Minister Soren Pape Poulsen in a statement.

The case is a scandal, he said.

“We can’t stop the work until we have shed light in every corner so trust in our police can be rebuilt,” Poulsen said.

The saga has raised questions for some in Denmark over whether authorities violated the country’s democratic principles during the visits for the sake of short term diplomatic gain.

Since 2015 a commission has questioned more than 50 people including five former ministers and last year it concluded that two leading officers gave an illegal order over the protesters.

Police officers involved in the 2012 visit say it was routine to suppress protests during the state visits, which are high profile and sensitive occasions given China’s stature.

“It wasn’t exceptional in 2012. It’s a practice that has existed as long as I can remember, ” former senior police officer Ole Kahr told broadcaster DR on Thursday.

Human rights groups and exiles say China governs Tibet with an iron fist and represses its Buddhist people. China says it peacefully liberated Tibet in 1950 and that its rule has brought prosperity and equality to a once-backward region.

Reporting by Emil Gjerding Nielson and Teis Jensen; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg