Hong Kong human rights activists protest Olympics torch crackdown

May 12th, 2008 - 3:02 pm ICT by admin  

Hong Kong, May 12 (DPA) Human rights activists marched in Hong Kong Monday to protest the way they claim free speech was suppressed during the Olympic torch relay held in the city this month. A number of activists detained during the relay May 2 claimed police denied them their right to protest by taking them off the torch route even though free speech is guaranteed in Hong Kong.

The activists said they feared that freedom of expression was being curtailed in Hong Kong, which reverted to Chinese rule under a “one country two systems” arrangement in 1997.

At Monday’s rally in central Hong Kong, dozens of marchers said they were particularly concerned at the way police removed protesters “for their own safety”, including a student holding up a Tibetan flag.

Anti-China protesters were aggressively heckled by pro-Beijing people on the torch relay route, but police only removed protesters instead of those harassing the protesters, activists said.

Tom Grundy of the human rights group International Action said at Monday’s march: “Our concern is that this could be a bit of a slippery slope for Hong Kong.

“We are concerned Beijing might have had an influence in ensuring that the (Olympic) torch relay went ahead without any blemishes of protest.”

Unusually, the relay May 2 was attended by a large number of flag-waving, patriotic members of the public who crossed the border from China for the relay.

Activists have speculated that China sent large groups of supporters in buses to ensure the compliance of Hong Kong’s police and government that any protest was stifled.

Hong Kong was a British colony for 156 years before reverting to Chinese rule in 1997 under a system intended to guarantee its freedoms and political and economic autonomy for 50 years.

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