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Twenty held in Hong Kong Olympic protests

world Updated: May 02, 2008 15:14 IST
AFP
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Hong Kong police detained around 20 people following minor scuffles along the route of the Olympic torch relay in the southern Chinese city on Friday.

China supporters and pro-democracy activists pushed and shoved each other on Nathan Road, one of the city's main thoroughfares, as the relay set off. <b1>

Friday's leg of the worldwide relay is the last likely chance for major protests before the torch, which has been dogged by demonstrators on its journey around the world, heads to mainland China on Saturday.

But there has been a growing backlash from China supporters angered by the international criticism of Beijing's crackdown on Tibet.

In one incident on Friday, police carted away about a dozen pro-democracy activists after they had scuffled with around 100 supporters of China, who cheered and clapped as the protesters were taken away.

The protesters had held up placards calling on China to release dissidents and allow the full suffrage in Hong Kong that was promised when colonial power Britain handed the territory back to China in 1997.

In a separate incident, about 10 pro-Tibet protesters were loaded into a police van after being heckled by China supporters, who cheered when they were pushed into the vehicle.

"This is the first Chinese city that the torch is coming to," protester Christina Chan said before police took her away.

"We wanted to show that Chinese people can have rational discussions about Tibet."

Demonstrations around the world were sparked by a crackdown in Tibet that began on March 14, after protests against China's rule of the Himalayan region erupted into violence.

Tibet's government-in-exile says more than 200 people were killed in the Chinese response, which included sealing off the region to foreign reporters and tourists, making accounts of bloodshed impossible to verify.

China said 20 people had been killed by Tibetan "rioters" until Monday, when state media for the first time said police shot dead a Tibetan pro-independence "insurgent."

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