Briton protests China's rights record in Hong Kong

Aug. 08, 2008, 7:23 a.m. (ET)

HONG KONG (AP) A British man was arrested after unfurling banners Friday on a major Hong Kong bridge denouncing China's human rights record ahead of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

Forty other protesters chanted slogans urging China to democratize near one of the venues for the Olympic equestrian event.

Matt Pearce, a longtime Hong Kong resident from Bristol, England, hung two banners on road signs on Hong Kong's Tsing Ma Bridge that said, "We want human rights and democracy" and "The people of China want freedom from oppression."

Officials shut down traffic on the bridge's upper deck where Pearce was protesting.

Pearce wore a mask of a horse's head and a white shirt bearing the Olympic rings and carried a guitar. His protest ended after about an hour when men in plainclothes hustled him away.

Hong Kong police said officers arrested Pearce for causing a public nuisance and he was being detained for questioning.

Elsewhere, 40 people protested near one of the two venues for the Olympic equestrian competition in suburban Sha Tin district.

Cordoned off in a designated protest area by metal barricades, the protesters chanted "Respect human rights" and "We want democracy in China" and held signs reading "Freedom and democracy."

Pro-democracy Hong Kong legislator Emily Lau, one of the protesters, accused the Chinese government of reneging on promises to improve its human rights record after winning its bid to host the Olympics.

"It is really ridiculous Beijing made these promises seven years ago and the promises have been broken," she said.

Olympic organizers moved the equestrian event from Beijing to the former British colony of Hong Kong because of a rash of equine diseases and substandard quarantine procedures on the mainland. Hong Kong has a prominent horse racing scene.