GENEVA - Activists protesting against China's rule over Tibet were being held after scaling scaffolding on the UN European headquarters in Geneva on Tuesday and unfurling a banner before a session examining China's human rights record.
Protesters from Students for a Free Tibet climbed up the Palais des Nations, which is being renovated, and put up a white banner saying: "China fails human rights in Tibet - UN stand up for Tibet".
The group urged the UN member states to block China's election to the Human Rights Council in early November.
It said in a statement that Laerke Arvedsen and Luna Pedersen from Denmark and Britons Chris Brocklehurst and Phil Kirk had been arrested and were being held. A fifth activist, Cheme Nelung, a Swiss-Tibetan member of the Tibetan Youth Association in Europe, had not been arrested, it said.
Spokeswoman Pema Yoko later made clear they were being detained by UN security, not by Swiss police.
UN spokeswoman Corinne Momal-Vanian said: "Our security is presently conducting interviews with the activists to ascertain the circumstances of the incident. They cannot arrest individuals, but can later decide to either let them go or hand them over to the host country authorities."
In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, said in response to the incident and the session: "We are willing to work with other parties in the spirit of equality and mutual respect to conduct human rights dialogue and cooperate in advancing China's human rights situation."
"But we firmly oppose those kinds of biased and malicious criticisms," she told reporters at a regular press briefing.
China is not currently among the 47 members of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which has a rotating membership. The Geneva forum was examining its record on Tuesday as part of its periodic review of each UN member state every four years.
Western countries including Australia and Germany rebuked China at the session for its crackdown on dissidents, curbing Internet use and Tibetan rights.
Beijing has no intention of altering its "correct" policies in Tibet as they have brought unprecedented achievements, a Chinese government white paper said earlier on Tuesday.
More than 120 Tibetan monks have set themselves on fire in the last several years to protest against conditions in the mountainous region.