The Olympic torch landed back on Chinese soil yesterday at the end of its troubled world tour as more activists were denied entry to Hong Kong ahead of its arrival.
Flag-waving children and a marching band greeted the torch as it arrived by plane from Vietnam and was carried to the tarmac by Yang Shu’an (楊樹安) of the Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee.
Hong Kong officials including Home Affairs Secretary Tsang Tak-sing (曾德成) and Olympic Committee president Timothy Fok (霍震霆) held a brief reception to welcome the torch.
Tomorrow, the torch will be taken on a 30km relay through the city of 6.9 million that will be watched closely for any protests or demonstrations over Tibet and human rights.
Hong Kong is the only place in China apart from Macau where demonstrations criticizing China are tolerated.
However, the territory’s Beijing-appointed administration has taken a hard line against protestors so far, expelling Danish sculptor and human rights activist Jens Galschiot and his sons when they arrived Saturday to take part in anti-China protests.
Four more activists have also been refused entry at Hong Kong international airport, including two members of the Students for Free Tibet movement and the London-based spokesman for the Free Tibet Campaign, Matt Whitticase.
In a statement sent to DPA after he was ordered to return to the UK, Whitticase said: “Everywhere one looks, China is slamming the door in the face of free expression ... Tourists are being refused entry to Tibet, journalists are being prevented from reporting freely from Tibet, Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai and now I have been denied entry to Hong Kong.”
“Denying me entry not only represents a slap in the face for the concept of ‘one country, two systems.’ It also demonstrates yet again that China clearly has much to hide in Tibet,” he said.
Students for a Free Tibet organizers Kate Woznow and Tsering Lama were among those who were turned away.
Woznow, a Canadian, said she was put on a return flight to New York.
Tsering Lama, an ethnic Tibetan Canadian citizen, was also deported, but it wasn’t immediately clear where to, Students for a Free Tibet spokeswoman Lhadon Tethong said. She traveled to Hong Kong from Toronto, Canada.
Mark Allison, a spokesman for Amnesty International’s Hong Kong branch, urged the government not to abuse its authority and to explain the grounds for the deportations.
Actress and Dafur activist Mia Farrow is due to arrive in Hong Kong today and criticize China for failing to stop the genocide in the Sudan in a speech at the Foreign Correspondents Club tomorrow.
The Immigration Department on yesterday refused to confirm or deny claims that Farrow would be denied entry when she lands in Hong Kong.
Some 3,000 police are expected to guard the torch relay route through Hong Kong from 10am tomorrow and the notorious blue-tracksuited Chinese police guards will be back in action for the event.
Singer-actor Jacky Cheung (張學友), windsurfing gold medallist Lee Lai-shan (李麗珊) and Victor Li (李澤楷), son of Hong Kong’s richest man, Li Ka-shing (李嘉誠), will be among the torch bearers.