December 23, 2014
“Seven people were able to achieve a small victory. Something we didn’t think would actually happen. People need to know that they can peacefully stand up for what they believe in and make a difference. Seven ordinary people. Not the pilot. Not the authorities at the airport. People need to know that it is them that make the difference” – Steph O’Donnell passenger
Wei Lin, a 33 year old Chinese asylum seeker was escorted by four Serco guards, tightly handcuffed with a mask placed over his mouth, but he able to get to the front of the plane after asking to go to the toilet, as passengers were boarding.
Wei was able to hold his shackled wrists to show the passengers and said, “I am a political asylum seeker. The Australian Immigration Department forced me to come to the airport & board on the airplaneagainst my will…,” before he was roughly pushed back to his seat.
The red welts left by the handcuffs were still obvious on Wei’s wrists three days later
The passengers’ action came after activists from the Refugee Action Coalition (NSW) distributed leaflets, in English and Chinese, at the check-in counter explaining how passengers could help stop forced deportations by ‘standing up for asylum seekers’.
Steph contacted the Refugee Action Coalition (NSW) from London explaining the action of the passengers – her account is here in full:
From Steph O’Donnell to RAC Facebook page (21 Dec 2014) :
I wanted to email you guys about the removal of Wei Lin from the Air China flight from Sydney to Beijing on Friday night.
I just wanted to add some detail to this story in the hope of inspiring others to take action if they ever find themselves in a similar situation.
I was on the flight with my partner and as we were getting settled and putting our items in the overhead compartments Wei Lin ran up the aisle with Serco guards closely in toe yelling “stop that man!” They caught up with Wei Lin and forcefully escorted him back to his seat ashe held his shackled hands in the air saying “this is how they treat me”.
Several passengers then approached staff to explain they would not be taking their seats until Wei Lin is removed. Staff from the airport came on board to check out the situation. We were informed they understood our concerns and would return shortly.
They did not return. The plane began to taxi with nothing being resolved. We requested to speak with the pilot about the matter but our requests fell on deaf ears.
There were 7 of us – four Australians, a New Zealander one Brit andone Japanese woman still refusing to take our seats.
The pilot had no choice but to return to the boarding gate, threatening to cancel OUR flights. Finally after 90 minutes, the pilot agreed to remove Wei Lin from the flight.
Seven people were able to achieve a small victory. Something we didn’t think would actually happen. People need to know that they can peacefully stand up for what they believe in and make a difference. Seven ordinary people. Not the pilot. Not the authorities at the airport.
People need to know that it is them that make the difference.