Police quiz student on protest plan

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 April, 2008, 12:00am

Netizens urged to rally for Tibetan self-determination during torch relay

Police will meet a university student today who called on netizens to protest for Tibetan self-determination during next week's Olympic torch relay in the city.

The force contacted Christina Chan Hau-man, 21, a philosophy student at the University of Hong Kong, after she publicised an event called 'a little troublemaking for the Olympics torch relay' on Facebook, a popular social-networking website, a few days ago.

Ms Chan, who plans to display a self-made Tibetan flag during the demonstration, asked people to join her to protest at locations where the torch would pass next Friday, and to put up posters.

She said she had received calls from a police liaison officer every day since she posted her invitation online. She was asked about the details of the protest plan and was asked to meet officers at the Western police station today.

'I do not know if it is the police's usual practice. But I will go because I do not want to be unco-operative,' she said, adding that she would go ahead with the protest plan.

She said she had received a number of threats from people in response to her plan, but had also garnered some support.

As of yesterday afternoon, 38 people had said on her website that they would attend the activity, while 47 had said they might attend, including former legislator Lo Wing-lok.

Ms Chan said she had not informed police of the plan because she expected the number of participants to be fewer than 50, the minimum for having to notify police.

A spokeswoman for the Security Bureau last night said there was no specific law prohibiting the display of the Tibetan flag.

'However, whether it is illegal to display a particular flag on a particular occasion would depend on the specific circumstances of the case. We need to consider the matter on a case-by-case basis,' the spokeswoman said.

Police last night said they would work closely with the relay organiser to ensure all protests were conducted in a safe and peaceful manner.

Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong said people could demonstrate peacefully and lawfully if they 'exercise restraint' and 'do not provoke the sentiment of the spectators'.

Mr Lee said whether it was suitable for protesters to raise the Tibetan flag was a 'personal judgment of those people who wish to exercise their right of freedom of expression'.

The security chief also said authorities had not received any reports of supporters of Tibetan independence entering the city.

However, 'we ... must remain vigilant in monitoring our borders', he said.

Thousands of police will be mobilised for the relay, Mr Lee said, but the route had not been finalised.

Acting Police Commissioner Peter Yam Tat-wing yesterday said the blue-tracksuit-wearing flame attendants - reportedly members of the People's Armed Police - would be the closest guards to Hong Kong's torch-bearers.

But he said it would be the city's police force that was responsible for security of the whole operation.

Flame attendants 'will help when there are any problems with the torch. For example, if the fire is extinguished, they will be able to immediately re-ignite the flame', he said, adding that they would be surrounded by a ring of elite police officers.

Mr Yam said that according to intelligence, the risk to the torch relay remained moderate.