Swiss police have detained 32 pro-Tibet activists for protesting against Chinese president Xi Jinping’s state visit as he was due to arrive on Sunday.

Bern police said in a statement that 32 people were stopped in the centre of the capital for protesting past the deadline set by police, refusing identity checks and other disruptions.

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Photo: Screenshot from video.

Between 700 and 800 Tibetans and Swiss demonstrators gathered in the city centre to protest against China’s policies on Tibet, the president of the Tibetan Community in Switzerland & Liechtenstein told Reuters. Police scheduled the protest to end at noon, before Xi’s visit.

Security officials also prevented a man from setting himself on fire on the sidelines of the demonstration and he was treated by doctors, police said.

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Protest in Bern on Sunday. Photo: Screenshot from Facebook video.

Those taken in by police were later released, a police spokesperson told the Associated Press. A protest in the morning was peaceful and caused no disruption, but some people caused minor problems afterwards, leading to the arrests, he said.

14 activists were detained near the Swiss parliament in the afternoon when they protested past the time limit, the association of Tibetan Youth in Europe said. They were released in the evening, the association told HKFP.

A video from RTSinfo, a news outlet in Geneva, showed demonstrators from a Swiss-Chinese trade organisation holding banners and waving Chinese flags in Federal Square where official state visitors are received.

Xi arrived in Bern on Sunday afternoon for a state visit – the first such visit by a Chinese leader this century. He will also be the first Chinese leader to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos.

In 1999, a similar pro-Tibet demonstration took place during a visit by then-president Jiang Zemin, and police intervened when protesters tried to throw eggs at the delegation.

Jiang then said in a speech to Swiss lawmakers that he was insulted by the demonstrations and that Switzerland had lost a good friend.

Catherine is a Canadian journalist and photographer who lived in Beijing for almost two years, working in TV and online media. Aside from Hong Kong and mainland affairs, she is also interested in urban spaces, art and feminism. She holds a BA in Literature and Art History from the University of British Columbia.