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Tibet protesters scale Golden Gate bridge

  • Story Highlights
  • Protesters arrested after hanging "Free Tibet" banner from bridge
  • The climbers come down voluntarily after three hours
  • Earlier in day, protests in Paris, France, cut short Olympic torch relay
  • China faces international criticism over crackdown on protests seeking Tibet self-rule
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(CNN) -- Three protesters scaled the Golden Gate Bridge Monday and unfurled a "Free Tibet" banner, a likely precursor to large protests when the Olympic torch arrives Wednesday in San Francisco, California.

Members of Students for a Free Tibet climbed the bridge to place these banners, said the group's spokesman.

The banner read, "One World. One Dream. Free Tibet."

Those who climbed cables from which the bridge is suspended are members of Students for a Free Tibet, said group spokesman Tenzin Dasang.

The three were arrested along with four others at the site.

All seven were charged with felony conspiracy and misdemeanor nuisance, said California Highway Patrol Officer Mary Ziegenbein. The climbers also were charged with misdemeanor trespassing. Video Watch protesters and banner hung from bridge »

The incident forced the closure of one northbound lane of the bridge.

The climbers -- who were on the bridge for about three hours -- came down voluntarily about 1:15 p.m. (4:15 p.m. ET) after workers with the Golden Gate Bridge District began cutting down their banner, Ziegenbein said.

Dasang said he has heard of many people planning to protest in San Francisco against China's human rights record.

"We want it to be peaceful. But it will be large," said Dasang, 22, during a phone interview in which he said he was near the bridge. "I heard from Tibetans that now live all over the U.S. and even abroad who are coming here."

The Olympic flame is on a 130-day journey that will take it through 23 cities on five continents and then throughout China, culminating at the Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing August 8.

The San Francisco protest comes the same day as a demonstration in Paris, France, disrupted the torch relay many times.

In Paris, police had to cut the Olympic torch relay short Monday amid protests against China's human rights record, French police said.

The torch was scheduled to travel 17 miles, past Paris City Hall, but that stop and others were called off after the protests.

The torch made it through about 10 miles of its scheduled journey. It was then driven by bus to its final destination, where it was displayed again during a public ceremony at a stadium.

Authorities had to play hide-and-seek with the Olympic torch during much of the route, placing it on a bus at least twice during a sometimes chaotic relay route.

China has come under international criticism because of its crackdown last month on protesters calling for democratic freedoms and self-rule in Tibet and neighboring Chinese provinces.

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Protesters have said more than 100 people have died in the crackdown, but Beijing denies that and has accused supporters of the Dalai Lama of orchestrating the violence.

U.S. and other Western leaders have called on China to provide civil rights and freedoms to those in Tibet and to enter peaceful discussions aimed at resolving the crisis. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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