Patriotic crowds greet Olympic torch in Hong Kong

May 2nd, 2008 - 11:20 am ICT by admin  

Hong Kong, May 2 (DPA) Flag-waving patriotic crowds turned out in heavy rain to greet the Olympic torch in Hong Kong Friday as a student brandishing a Tibetan flag was whisked away by police. Christina Chan, 21, was heckled by pro-China crowds near the start of the relay route and taken away by police who said it was for her own protection after she wrapped the Tibetan flag around her body.

The mood of the Hong Kong crowd, which greeted the torch on its first appearance back on Chinese soil after its troubled round-the-world tour, was overwhelmingly pro-China.

Hundreds of people lined the streets from the bustling Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district from early morning despite persistent rain to see the torch carried on its 33 km route starting at 10 a.m. (02.00 GMT).

Small groups of protestors, exercising the right to demonstrate denied to people in almost every other part of China, were drowned out by cheering crowds holding Hong Kong and Chinese flags.

A campaign by pro-Beijing groups in the past fortnight has seen flags, badges and free T-shirts handed out to people across the city to welcome the Olympic torch.

The first torchbearer was windsurfing Olympic gold medallist Lee Lai-Shan, who was handed the torch by Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed chief executive, Donald Tsang.

Tsang described the relay - which had been dogged by anti-China protests in London, Paris and other capitals - as “a trail of unity and peace, for all people, of all nations”.

“It is a great and solemn honour for Hong Kong, Asia’s world city, to be the first city in China to welcome back the Olympic flame on behalf of our proud nation,” he said.

Hong Kong immigration officials have turned away a number of overseas protesters flying into the city in the past week to join in anti-China demonstrations.

However, despite speculation she would be refused entry, activist and actress Mia Farrow, a high-profile critic of China’s policy in Sudan, is being allowed to give a speech on the issue later Friday.

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