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Deported activists warn of Tibet torch protests

May 2, 2008

HONG KONG, Thursday May 1 2008 (Reuters) - Three Tibetan activists
barred from travelling to Hong Kong warned in a live webcast on Thursday
that the Olympic flame's trek through Tibet would escalate tensions and
spark protests.

Hong Kong authorities deported a half-dozen activists this week ahead of
the latest leg of the Olympic torch relay. Friday's leg follows a
tumultuous five-continent tour that was dogged by protests over China's
crackdown on rioting Tibetans in March.

Rights activists say the deportations have damaged Hong Kong's
reputation as a free and open territory of China.

The three activists, who took part in the webcast from locations in
Canada, England and the United States, warned that running a special
flame up Mount Everest and then the main torch through Tibet in June was
a "blatant provocation" and would escalate tensions on the ground.

"Tibetans will do everything in their power to protest during the torch
relay," said Lhadon Tethong, the executive director of Students for a
Free Tibet.

"Clearly the Olympic torch relay is already resulting in more repression
inside Tibet and increasing the climate of fear that Tibetans were
already being subjected to," she added.

The three activists decided to stage a news conference by webcast
"because we simply cannot allow ourselves to be silenced", said Tsering
Lama with the group Students for a Free Tibet, which broadcasts live
from Toronto.

Actress Mia Farrow was allowed into Hong Kong on Thursday to give a
speech criticising China's ties with Sudan, after flying in from New York.

Farrow's speech to the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club takes place
at the same time the city will be hosting the Olympic torch.

Although it has been part of China since 1997, Hong Kong does have more
autonomy and civil liberties than people in the rest of China, including
the right to protest. But it has been seen to be under pressure from
Beijing to minimise any trouble during the torch's eight-hour trek
through the former British colony.

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Bill Tarrant and John Chalmers)
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