updated 8/1/2008 1:36:27 PM ET 2008-08-01T17:36:27

Nine German Olympians have posed with pictures of Chinese dissidents held up in front of their faces to protest the country's politics.

The nine responded to a Suddeutsche Zeitung magazine request sent out to 200 German athletes to pose for a spread headlined "We are all Chinese,'' which was published Friday.

The headline was a reference to the famous 1963 "Ich bin ein Berliner (I am a Berliner)'' line from then American President John F. Kennedy during a speech for freedom after the Berlin Wall was built.

Sabine Spitz, a mountain biker, chose to hold up over her face a picture of Yang Tongyan, a writer sentenced to 12 years for demanding democratic change in China.

"I was excited when I went to the Sydney and Athens Games - I can't say that this time,'' she said in the caption below the picture. "I don't know what I should think about a country where people can't speak freely.''

The athletes posed in their athletic gear as they protested various aspects of Chinese policy, ranging from the one-child rule to lack of freedom of expression.

Many German athletes have shown mixed feelings over the Beijing Games. The country still recalls the 1936 Olympics in Berlin were hosted by the Nazis.

Water polo player Soeren Mackeben was on the cover of the magazine after earlier speaking in favor of the German Olympic team donning orange robes as a tribute to Tibet.

Mackeben wears his swim suit on the cover, which bears the headline: "The naked Truth.'' His face is covered by Ye Guozhu, reportedly sent to jail for protesting against his restaurant being demolished for the Olympics.

"Ye Guozhu's case is an incomprehensible injustice and irreconcilable with the Olympic spirit,'' Mackeben said.

Imke Duplitzer, a fencer about to compete in fourth Olympics, chose Gao Zhisheng. Last autumn, he sent a letter to the U.S. Congress, then allegedly disappeared nine days later.

"We're both fighting. Me, as athlete, to win a medal; he as a lawyer for justice,'' Duplitzer wrote. "Which one is more important?''

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