Olympic Torch Gets Patriotic Reception in Hong Kong The Olympic torch is paraded without disruption through the streets of Hong Kong on Friday. This is the first time the torch has reached Chinese soil. It was greeted by crowds of flag-waving residents, shouting insults at pro-Tibet and human rights protesters. Some of them were forced to seek refuge in police vans.
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Olympic Torch Gets Patriotic Reception in Hong Kong

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Olympic Torch Gets Patriotic Reception in Hong Kong

Olympic Torch Gets Patriotic Reception in Hong Kong

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Today in Hong Kong, the Olympic torch received the sort of welcome that has eluded it in other legs of its journey. An enthusiastic crowd of tens of thousands lined the streets.

But as NPR's Louisa Lim reports, the day was not entirely tension-free.

LOUISA LIM: I'm standing among a crowd of people who are waiting for the Olympic torch to go by, and many of them are wearing red to show their patriotism. They're waving enormous Chinese flags. There's even a guy who I can see right here. He's up a tree right beside me. This is the torch relay exactly as the Chinese government envisaged it.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Ms. YU YU DUAN(ph): We're very excited. We have been looking forward to this for a long time. And I've been waiting for here now two hours. Oh, the torch is coming!

LIM: That was Yu Yu Duan, who'd asked for half a day off work to cheer the torch. Near her was Cha Man Wa(ph). He brought along his 7-year-old granddaughter on what he sees as a historic day.

Mr. CHA MAN WA: Because I'm Chinese and I was in the country, and I feel proud about our country.

Unidentified Group: (Speaking foreign language)

LIM: Shouts of go China go ring out. Some, like businessman David Po(ph), believes that the mood has been changing since Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997. People have been rallying behind the government in Beijing and its Olympics, especially after pro-Tibet protests dogged the torch relay elsewhere.

Mr. DAVID PO: I must say that there's certain patriotism, the kind of feeling it's a first for the last hundred years.

(Soundbite of protest)

LIM: And a tiny group of activists shouting for human rights on one street corner shows the downside of that patriotism. When some of them, including Hong Kong's best-known pro-democracy leaders, tried to hold an alternative torch relay, the reaction is hostile.

Politician Martin Lee is shocked.

Mr. MARTIN LEE (Former Chairman, Hong Kong Democratic Party): A few guys(ph) swearing, very bad language.

(Soundbite of protest)

LIM: In fact, police say, eight activists actually had to be rescued for their own safety after being heckled and jostled by the crowd. Legislator Lee Cheuk Yan(ph) is worried this lack of tolerance for dissenting opinions is a dangerous trend.

Mr. LEE CHEUK YAN (Legislator): That's exactly the problem. There in Hong Kong, in China there are no room for critics now. This is a very sad development.

LIM: But one high-profile critic was taking her campaign to the press rather than onto the streets. Over the last couple of days the authorities have refused to allow several activists to enter the city. But actress Mia Farrow was in town, hoping to get China to put pressure on Sudan to end human rights abuses in Darfur.

Ms. MIA FARROW (Actress): China is underwriting the atrocities in Darfur. We look to China, as China has a unique relationship with Sudan, and therefore a unique point of leverage with Sudan. So it's really: please, China, use that leverage to end the suffering for the people in Darfur.

LIM: But for many Hong Kong people such concerns were far from their minds. It was a day of pride, a day of celebration, and many were determined no one should spoil their party, whatever the cost.

Louisa Lim, NPR News, Hong Kong.

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