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Tibetan flags banned at Olympic equestrian event
AP[Friday, July 18, 2008 12:45]
By MIN LEE

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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