Protesters arrested as Tibet railway readies to roll

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 July, 2006, 12:00am

Three protesters were arrested as the first passenger trains leading to Tibet readied for their long journeys tonight on the world's highest railway.

Railway authorities and staff working on the line have been busy making last-minute preparations for the three passenger trains leaving from Beijing, Xining and Chengdu , state media reported. But Xinhua said the first train to arrive in Lhasa would be a special one departing from Golmud at 9am, with state leaders expected to be onboard.

A grand ceremony marking the completion of the 2,000km Qinghai-Tibet railway is expected to be held at Lhasa's new railway station tomorrow, it said. The 1,142km section from Golmud to Lhasa, which was completed last year, will take about 12 hours to cross.

The report said three drivers had been selected to drive the first special train, which is believed will carry President Hu Jintao . The Beijing train will leave at 9.30pm and should arrive in Lhasa, more than 4,000km away, about 48 hours later. Services departing from Tibet will also start tomorrow, with the first train to Xining expected to carry the railway's model workers and journalists.

Yesterday, three women protesters from the US, Canada and Britain were detained for three hours after a brief protest at the Beijing Railway Station. They unfurled a banner saying 'China's Tibet railway: designed to destroy', before being taken away.