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4,000 police to guard equestrian competition

/ Source: Associated Press Sports

Hong Kong will deploy 4,000 police officers to guard its Olympic equestrian competition, in line with tight security for the next month's Beijing Games, the territory's police chief said Wednesday.

Organizers moved the equestrian event from Beijing to the former British colony Hong Kong because of a rash of equine diseases and substandard quarantine procedures on the mainland. Hong Kong has much experience handling horses due to its prominent horse racing scene.

Hong Kong police commissioner Tang King-shing said in a speech at the Foreign Correspondents' Club that the department has spent the past two years drawing up a security plan for the equestrian contest scheduled for Aug. 9-21.

"We need to examine and prepare for everything that might be expected to happen from the best to the worst,'' Tang said.

Security for the Olympics is tight after reported terrorist plots against the event and widescale demonstrations during the international legs of the torch relay to protest China's human rights record.

China has tightened visa restrictions to keep out protesters during the games, but activists could choose instead to protest in Hong Kong, which promises Western-style civil liberties denied on the mainland and grants visa-free access to citizens of many Western countries.

However recent events have left critics fearing that Hong Kong authorities will restrict such freedoms during the Olympics to please Beijing.

Immigration officials turned back pro-Tibet activists who flew into Hong Kong before its leg of the torch relay in May. Pro-democracy lawmakers also complained that police officers removed a pro-Tibet protester outnumbered by pro-China supporters during its leg of the torch relay.

Asked if protesters would be allowed to carry the flag of Tibet — a Chinese territory with a long-held independence campaign — into equestrian competition venues Wednesday, Tang didn't answer directly, saying Hong Kong organizers are still drawing up rules governing the venues.

The Hong Kong government has said police will assign sites to protesters.