Five Americans who staged a protest on Mount Everest to challenge China's rule over Tibet were expelled from the country.
The Foreign Ministry said Friday the five were detained for "carrying out illegal activities aimed at splitting China," and that they had been expelled according to Chinese law.
Five Tibetan independence activists were released early Friday morning by Chinese authorities in Tibet. Tenzin Dorjee, Kirsten Westby, Laurel Mac Sutherlin and Shannon Service were detained on Wednesday for protesting. American Jeff Friesen was taken into custody on Thursday for suspected involvement in the protest; all five arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal.
"I am so happy to have seen my country for the first time," said SFT's deputy director Tenzin Dorjee, the first known Tibetan exile to have returned to Tibet in order to protest for independence. "I am more confident than ever before that Tibet will be free."
Earlier this week, the group staged a demonstration for Tibetan independence and against China's hosting of the 2008 Olympics
A Tibetan rights group Students for a Free Tibet says the group unfurled a banner that read "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008."
"One World, One Dream" is the slogan of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Beijing officials want to take the Olympic torch up Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain, which has one side in Tibet.
Chinese troops occupied Tibet in the 1950s, and Beijing continues to rule the region with a heavy hand.
China says Tibet has been part of China for centuries, but many in Tibet say it was an independent state for much of that time.
In 1959, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama, went into exile in India after a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, SFT and Reuters.