The same day hundreds of millions worldwide watched the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics from Beijing, a crowd of about 75 gathered at Portland International Airport to welcome home Tirian Mink.

They came last Friday to cheer Mink, who had been detained days earlier for several hours in Beijing after he and three others sneaked by security across from the national stadium in China's capital to hang a giant protest banner.

Hung from two flagpoles, the banner said "One World. One Dream. Free Tibet," and flew for 10 minutes on Aug. 5 before police arrived.

"What he did was a bold thing since people who protest in China can be arrested, detained and tortured," said Tenzing Kyungratsang, general secretary for the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress of Portland and Vancouver.

Kyungratsang joined Mink's supporters at PDX airport—his parents, grandmother, girlfriend and dozens of local Tibetans. Two monks encircled Mink, who's not Tibetan, as he was draped in dozens of white Tibetan khatak scarves.

Mink says Chinese authorities lectured him before his release at a makeshift police headquarters in a university classroom about how the Tibetan people were grateful that China runs their country.

"That's what they [the Chinese] believe," says Mink, a 32-year-old former remodeling project manager who's "between jobs."

Mink has always been interested in the Tibetan cause but decided to get involved in 2001 when the International Olympic Committee awarded China the 2008 Games.

Mink and Kyungratsang both say China won the Olympics partially based on the promise that it was working toward respect for human rights and freedom of speech. But both say that's a crock.

"There hasn't been any improvement," Kyungratsang says.

Now that he's home, Mink says he will watch the Olympics both because he likes athletics and feels the Games are a good opportunity for the world to get a better look at China. Meanwhile, he plans to relax with his parents in the Buckman neighborhood and continue his search for a job in the humanitarian field.

"I haven't slept in days," Mink says. "But I feel like I could run a marathon right now."


There are an estimated 350 Tibetans in Oregon and Southwest Washington, and about 9,000 in the United States.