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Hong Kong cheers Olympic torch

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Olympic torch was carried on foot, horseback, via boat, in Hong Kong
  • NEW: Few protesters peppered the route; most people showed support
  • Five to seven people detained during torch relay
  • The flame will pass through Tibet and be taken up to the summit of Mt. Everest
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HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- The Olympic torch relay wound its way through Hong Kong without incident Friday, beginning a series of runs on Chinese soil after stops in other nations that sometimes triggered protests.

The crowd waits for the Olympic torch along Nathan Road on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong Friday.

The torch passed through the hands of 119 torchbearers during the near-eight-hour trek before it was settled in a caldron on the city's waterfront.

"This is [the] pride of Hong Kong. This is [the] pride of China," said Jiang Xiaoyum, the executive vice president of the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee.

Most of the time, the torch was carried on foot, but at other times it was borne on horseback or transported via boat to cross Victoria Harbor. Throughout, it passed throngs wearing red and waving Chinese flags in a show of support for the Olympic Games in Beijing.

A few protesters peppered the route, but most of those lining the streets showed support for China's right to host the Olympics.

"We cheer each relay runner," said Hong Kong's chief administrator, Henry Tang. "We embrace the Olympic spirit with passion and a sense of unity."

About an hour after the relay started, police detained five to seven democracy and human-rights activists who were holding signs in the city's Kowloon Park. Video Watch protesters being arrested during the relay »

At Hong Kong University, student Vickie Lui eagerly awaited the relay's arrival.

"The Olympic torch symbolizes... the spirit of togetherness and brotherhood," she said. "The Chinese take special pride in the fact that China has come so far in being able to hold the Olympics."

She added of the protesters: "If they want to demonstrate or protest and make the noise, I have no issue with that as long as they're not destructive." Video Watch the torch relayed via dragon boat »

Hong Kong residents were encouraged to wear red to show their support for the flame. About 3,000 police were on hand to patrol the event. Video Watch the torch being carried atop a racehorse »

Protesters said they would wear orange, a mixing of the Chinese symbolic colors of red for the country and yellow for freedom.

The torch arrived in Hong Kong on Wednesday after a protest-free relay through Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on Tuesday -- the last stop outside China on a 29-day odyssey through 21 cities in five continents. Video Watch a torchbearer discuss her experience »

Before its arrival, authorities in Hong Kong deported at least seven activists.

The relay is scheduled to continue through the Chinese territory of Macau before going to the mainland.

It will pass through Tibet, where Chinese authorities cracked down against anti-Chinese protesters in March. And Chinese climbers plan to take a second Olympic torch to the summit of Mount Everest, the world's highest peak at 8,848 meters (29,028 feet), sometime in May when the weather permits.

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Hong Kong was a British colony until it was handed back to China in 1997. Although Beijing makes all the big political decisions, Hong Kong was promised a wide degree of autonomy under a formula called "one country, two systems."

The media are allowed to criticize the leaders, massive street protests have been held demanding greater democracy, and English is still the official language in court.

But for special events such as the Olympic torch relay, Hong Kong leans more toward the "one country" part of the formula than the "two systems" part. In the past week, authorities used a blacklist to stop seven pro-Tibet and human rights activists at the airport. After questioning, they were deported.

Actress Mia Farrow is also in Hong Kong to raise awareness about the fighting in Sudan's Darfur region, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million others displaced. Although she sympathized with Tibetans "on a personal level," she said, her main concern was in pressuring China to use its commercial ties with Sudan to end its campaign in Darfur.

China is believed to have special influence with the Islamic regime because it buys two-thirds of Sudan's oil exports and sells weapons to Sudan. China also defends Khartoum in the U.N. Security Council.

China's trade with Sudan is "underwriting the war in Darfur," Farrow said. "The Darfur issue is one they could solve within easy reach."

Demonstrators criticizing Beijing's human rights record and its recent crackdown in Tibet dogged the torch relay in London, England; Paris, France; and San Francisco, California.

But the torch enjoyed protest-free relays in Pyongyang and Ho Chi Minh City.

Hong Kong grants visa-free entry to many Westerners. However, three pro-Tibet campaigners and a freedom of speech activist were barred entry into Hong Kong and questioned for hours at the airport before being deported, according to Students for a Free Tibet's Web site.

The trio involved two of its members and an organizer with the Free Tibet Campaign. Their plan was to take part in a news conference that would draw attention to the likelihood of violent protests if China did not cancel the "provocative" Tibet leg of the torch relay.

"The Chinese government has shut out international observers and media from Tibet, and now they have even stopped individuals from speaking out in Hong Kong about the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Tibet," said Kate Woznow, campaign director for Students for a Free Tibet.

China says 18 civilians and a police officer were killed in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa during the March violence. Tibetan exile groups say that many times that number were killed in the ensuing crackdown.

Also deported Tuesday was free speech activist Zhang Yu, the Hong Kong Journalists Association said, who was flying in to take part in "World Press Freedom Day." The four-day conference calls for freedom of expression in China.

Authorities did not specify a reason for barring his entry, said the association's general secretary, Mak Yin-ting.


Danish sculptor Jens Galschiot -- who created a sculpture in Hong Kong to symbolize those who died in the 1989 Chinese crackdown at Beijing's Tiananmen Square -- and two others were detained and deported Saturday while trying to participate in the same conference, Mak added.

"Jens was coming here to promote the freedom of expression, but he himself was deprived of the freedom of expression," Mak said. "The Chinese government pledged to have a free press if it could host the games. We urge the Chinese government to do it." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Saeed Ahmed contributed to this report

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