Pro-Tibet speech called off after Beijing complains

March 18th, 2009 - 12:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Hong Kong, March 18 (DPA) A speech in Hong Kong by a campaigner for Tibetan self-determination was postponed after Beijing officials complained about the event, organisers said Wednesday.
Kate Saunders, communications director of the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet, was scheduled to speak at Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondents Club Tuesday.

Officials from China’s Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong contacted the club to let them know they were “unhappy” about the speech, the South China Morning Post reported.

The club, which insists it was not pressured to cancel the event, said Wednesday it was postponed after discussions with foreign ministry officials. A new date for the speech was yet to be confirmed.

Sources at the club said the event might be rearranged as a debate with a foreign ministry official present to respond to issues raised by Saunders.

“We firmly oppose Tibetan separatists to come to Hong Kong for any separatist activities,” the newspaper report quoted a foreign ministry spokesman as saying.

Freedom of speech is guaranteed in the mini-constitution that has ruled Hong Kong since it reverted to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” arrangement.

However, anti-China protesters expected to take part in Tibet demonstrations during the Olympic torch relay through Hong Kong in 2008 were refused entry to the former British colony.

Tibet has been closed to foreigners by Beijing throughout March as it marks the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s 1959 flight as well as the first anniversary of the 2008 anti-China riots.

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