Hong Kong may switch route of Olympic torch relay

April 11th, 2008 - 4:45 pm ICT by admin  

Hong Kong, April 11 (DPA) The route of the Olympic torch relay in the city could be changed to ensure it passes through in a smooth, orderly and safe manner, the government said Friday. Chief Secretary Henry Tang said the route would be reviewed continually and may be altered depending on the latest developments.

Tang was speaking after meeting mainland officials and the Beijing Organising Committee for the Games Thursday.

However, he stressed that as the relay was a once-in-a-lifetime event for many people in Hong Kong, he did not want to change the route drastically.

Around 3,000 police officers will be mobilised May 2 when the torch arrives in Hong Kong, its first stop on Chinese soil after its worldwide tour, which has been marred repeatedly by protests over Tibet.

The president of the Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, Timothy Fok, has already appealed to the city not to follow the example set in cities such as London and Paris, saying he did not think it would be appropriate to stage demonstrations in Hong Kong.

But protest groups in the city of 6.9 million, the only place in China apart from Macau where anti-government protests are allowed, are already preparing to use the torch’s arrival to demonstrate.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang, a keen runner, is expected to be the first of 120 torchbearers to run in the 33-km relay in Hong Kong.

The full list of torchbearers will be announced April 29. Also expected to run are Hong Kong’s Olympic gold medallist windsurfer Lee Lai-shan and actors Jackie Chan and Andy Lau.

Each will run around 200 metres in the eight-hour run from the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, through Kowloon, the New Territories and Hong Kong Island.

A community run along the same route is to be staged April 18 to assess security requirements and the impact on traffic.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, reverted to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” arrangement guaranteeing political freedoms and the right to protest.

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