HK protest sites 'far from venues'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 July, 2008, 12:00am

Activists complained that protest zones announced by police yesterday for the Olympic equestrian events in Hong Kong were too far away from the venues.

Protesters will be allowed to wave banners and shout slogans at the Sha Tin Rowing Centre, 300 metres from the competition venue at the racecourse and with a tributary of the Shing Mun River in between.

In Sheung Shui, the protest zone will be in Po Kin Road near North District Hospital, about 300 metres from the Beas River venue. In Beijing, by contrast, the nearest protest zone to the National Satdium is 13km away.

'It is our initial plan and we may change it according to the real situation, like the number of protesters, the number of spectators, the traffic etc,' police director of operations Koo Sii-hong said yesterday.

Asked if the zones were too far away from the equestrian venues, Mr Koo said: 'We respect freedom of expression and the right to protest. We ensure that protesters can do what they want to do and in these zones they would definitely see spectators who enter the venues.'

Mr Koo said police had contacted 60 groups who might demonstrate during the Olympics. Ten had indicated that they might do so, but none had applied formally so far.

Legislator 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, a member of the April Fifth Action group, said he would not stage any protest unless police agreed to move the protest zones closer to the venues.

Lee Cheuk-yan, of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, said the group planned to protest in Sha Tin. He said he would seek discussions with the police about it. 'It will be meaningless if we stage a protest far away from the venue, even though the spectators will pass through the zone,' he said.

Christina Chan Hau-man, a university student who protested on the Tibet issue during the Olympic torch relay in Hong Kong in May, described the arrangements as ridiculous. She said she would not stage a protest in a zone so distant from the venue, and planned to enter the venue to protest.