SEVENTEEN people protesting against China's human rights abuses in Tibet were arrested and detained in Suva yesterday.
The human rights advocates were being questioned by police at the Central Police Station last night.
They could face charges of unlawful assembly.
The people held included Fiji Human Rights Commissioner Shamima Ali, Claire Slatter, a former coordinator of DAWN; Noelene Nabulivou, coordinator of Women's Action for Change, Tara Chetty and four other women's rights activists from the Fiji Women's Rights Movement, Edwina Kotoisuva and colleagues from the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, Jane Keith-Reid and three other activists from the AIDS Taskforce.
The group was taken away by police after being picked up from outside the Chinese Embassy in Suva shortly after 1pm yesterday.
Ms Chetty confirmed Neemah Khan, Unaisi Valenitabua and Shirley Tagi of FWRM, Tevita Seruilumi of FWCCC, Pita Sipeli, Niraj Singh and Jope Naviti joined them in custody later in the afternoon.
Talking from the Central Police Station last night, Ms Chetty said they had no complaints and they were being treated well.
She said they held a peaceful vigil outside the Chinese Embassy, on the Suva foreshore on Queen Elizabeth Drive, to show their solidarity with human rights defenders in Tibet and Tibetans who had been killed and assaulted by Chinese troops.
"These unnecessary arrests have made a big incident out of what was a quiet and peaceful vigil showing solidarity with our fellow activists in Tibet," she said.
"The detainees attempted to sit in separate groups in order to comply with laws governing public assembly."
Ms Chetty said the interim regime supported China and the suppression of Tibetan activists.
"This violation of the human right of free speech and peaceful assembly, protected in the Fiji Constitution and in international law, is particularly troubling at a time when Fiji is ruled by an unelected government," said Ms Chetty.
She said the FWRM urged the authorities to release the detained human rights defenders and drop all charges.
In a press statement, the Citizens Constitutional Forum executive officer Reverend Akuila Yabaki called on police to immediately release those arrested.
Mr Yabaki said the group was not violating the peace of the country and CCF was concerned that the interim Government appeared to be condoning human rights abuses.
Police spokesman Josaia Weicavu confirmed the group was being investigated for unlawful assembly outside the Chinese Embassy.
The protest by the activists in Fiji follows a global trend that started with the lighting of the Olympic torch in Athens, Greece, for its journey across the world to Beijing, the Chinese capital which hosts the Summer Olympic Games from August 8-24.
Protests have dogged the Olympic torch from the moment it was lit in Athens over China's handling Tibet's call for greater autonomy despite Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, supporting the Beijing Games.