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Beijing bid backers look for 100,000 supporters at rally

BEIJING'S supporters in Hong Kong are warming up for a series of high-profile events to support China's bid for the 2000 Olympic Games.

''There will be a mass rally at the end of this month which we hope will involve 100,000 people, and will be supported by local labour organisations,'' said Alexander Wan Wah, spokesman for the United Support for Beijing 2000 Olympic Bid Programmes organising committee, There would also be a large gala dinner on September 2 at the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Centre - which would be televised by ATV.

''It will feature sporting personalities, entertainers and high-ranking business people,'' Mr Wan said.

''We are determined to show that Hong Kong really cares that Beijing's bid to host the Olympics is successful.

''I don't see the Australians or the British people [here] doing much to support their home cities,'' Mr Wan added.

President of the Australian Association of Hong Kong, Rob Lellman, confirmed that his association had not organised any pro-Sydney events.

''It would not really be appropriate, even if our members privately support Sydney.

''Our organisation aims to look after the welfare of Australians living in Hong Kong. We are not here to promote events happening in Australia.'' But Australian Consulate spokeswoman, Julie Meldrum, said it had organised several events to welcome the chief executive of the Sydney bidders when he visited the territory earlier this year.

''And the Consul General, Dr Jocelyn Chey, is planning to host a celebration party when the result comes through,'' she said.

Executive director of the British Chamber of Commerce, Barry McWhirter, defended the fact that the British population in the territory had not organised any significant pro-Manchester activities.

''Given that the majority of the local population is in favour of Beijing holding the Games, I don't think it would be very diplomatic if we started organising events supporting Manchester's bid,'' he said.

Members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will vote on the host city for the 2000 Olympics on September 23. Sydney, Manchester and Beijing are leading the two other bidding cities - Istanbul and Berlin.

An influential US Congressman has thrown his weight behind Beijing's bid, but stressed that China should further improve its human rights.

Gary Ackerman said during a visit in Hong Kong, which ended yesterday, that China should be given an opportunity to invite the world to see for itself the rapid development on the mainland.

Mr Ackerman, chairman of the Asia-Pacific sub-committee of the House of Representatives' foreign affairs committee, tried to play down the significance of a congress resolution that urged the IOC to vote against Beijing's bid on grounds of its human rights record.

Mr Ackerman said the resolution had been misread by many people.

''This is not a law that is passed and signed by the President. This is just the opinion of some congressmen. It has no effect on law and sense of direction to the IOC,'' he said.

''Certainly the Olympics should not be used as a political football.'' If political standards were applied, he said, it would be disastrous. ''Everybody will only have national games within their home country.''