Pro-Tibetan demonstrators barred from Hong Kong for torch relay

Other News Materials 26 April 2008 12:25 (UTC +04:00)

Pro-Tibet demonstrators from overseas will be barred from entering Hong Kong ahead of the Olympic torch relay on May 2, the territory's security minister said Saturday.

Ambrose Lee said officials were determined to see the relay run smoothly when the Olympic flame returns to Chinese soil for the first time after its controversial world tour.

Pro-Tibet protestors would not only not be welcome but would be barred from entering Hong Kong to join in demonstrations, he was quoted as saying by government-run radio station RTHK.

Lee, Hong Kong's secretary for security, said he expected tens of thousands of people to line the route for the torch relay and said he expected the crowds to include pro-China and anti-China factions.

Refusing entry to Hong Kong to overseas protestors is likely to be controversial. Previously, Falun Gong members refused entry to the former British colony have mounted successful court challenges, dpa reported.

People in Hong Kong have freedoms to demonstrate that are denied to people elsewhere in China because of the terms of its return to Chinese rule in 1997.

However, security officials have indicated that displaying the Tibetan flag may be interpreted as an offence during the Hong Kong relay and people planning protests say they have been harangued by police.

One 21-year-old university student who advertised a protest on her Facebook website page complained she was telephoned daily by police and asked to report to a police station.

A number of protest groups plan to highlight the unrest in Tibet during the Hong Kong torch relay, although surveys suggest a large majority of Hong Kongers oppose anti-China protests.

The city's Beijing-appointed Chief Executive Donald Tsang is expected to be the first of 120 torch-bearers to run in the 33- kilometre relay, which will be marshalled by 3,000 police.

Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty 11 years ago under a "one country, two systems" arrangement guaranteeing political freedoms and the right to protest.