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Tibetan Flags Banned at Olympics

July 22, 2008

July 18, 2008

HONG KONG -- Tibetan flags will be banned from all Olympic equestrian
events in Hong Kong under rules aimed at heading off political
propaganda and protests inside competition venues, organizers said Friday.

The crackdown guidelines apply to flags representing countries and
regions without athletes in the events. Demonstrations, as well as
any "propaganda" appearing on banners, clothing or other accessories,
won't be allowed either.

Organizers said violators will be kicked out.

"I think most people who come to these events would hope nobody is
allowed to spoil the fun and the purpose of the games," John Breen,
security coordinator for the equestrian events, said at a news
conference in Hong Kong.

The territory, which is hosting the equestrian event for the Beijing
Olympics, has become a possible magnet for demonstrators as mainland
China has tightened visa restrictions ahead of the games.

A former British colony now ruled by China, Hong Kong is supposed to
enjoy Western-style civil liberties and grants visa-free access to
citizens of many Western countries.

However, Hong Kong has acted to restrict demonstrators in some cases.
In May, immigration officials turned back pro-Tibet activists who
flew into Hong Kong before its leg of the Olympic torch relay.

The equestrian rules, based on the Olympic charter, approximate ones
governing venues in mainland China, Breen said. They were written in
consultation with and approved by the Beijing organizing committee
for the games.

"Broadly we are aiming to deal with the same misbehavior," Breen said.

Organizers will deploy about 300 of their own security personnel to
venues during competition days in addition to the 4,000 officers
police plan to mobilize.
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