(dpa) - China's Olympic torch escorts risk arrest if they clash with pro-Tibet protestors at the relay in Canberra next week, Australian officials said Wednesday.
"They could be subject to arrest, in fact, if they laid a hand on somebody," Canberra relay taskforce chairman Ted Quinlan said.
Thousands of China supporters are expected to flood the capital 24 April for a relay in which 80 Australians are to run over a 20-kilometre route.
They are expected to vastly outnumber pro-Tibet protestors and those championing the cause of the spiritualist movement Falun Gong that Beijing has driven underground.
Police have been given emergency powers to head off clashes between pro-China and anti-China demonstrators.
Officers will be able to search protestors along the relay route and confiscate prohibited items, including eggs, balloons filled with paint and buckets of water.
Pro-China protest organizer Zhang Rongan said as many as 10,000 of his followers could converge on Canberra. Doctors and nurses would be on hand to treat anyone injured while protecting the torch, he said.
China has defended its controversial torch escorts, describing them as volunteers and denying they are from the military. They were involved in scuffles during the torch's progress through London, Paris and San Francisco.