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Police Block Hong Kong Group at Beijing Airport

July 1, 1996 GMT

HONG KONG (AP) _ Police kept eight Hong Kong politicians from getting off a plane at the Beijing airport today, preventing them from delivering a pro-democracy petition to Chinese officials.

The eight, most of them from Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, timed their action for the start of the final one-year countdown to China’s takeover of the British colony on July 1, 1997.

Chinese officials had publicly warned the politicians to cancel the trip.

The politicians returned home today, still holding the petition with 60,000 signatures demanding democracy for Hong Kong.

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At Beijing airport, they told reporters in Hong Kong, police had boarded their plane, checked passengers’ travel documents, and forced the politicians to stay aboard.

Police confiscated their home-entry cards, which guarantee them automatic entry into China as Hong Kong citizens, they said.

They said the officers had three pages of names, many of them prominent Hong Kong democrats.

Security guards ejected at least six TV camera crews from the airport terminal and tried to prevent reporters from talking to passengers from the flight.

Police rounded up a dozen reporters from Western and Hong Kong news agencies outside the terminal and detained them for 45 minutes.

The Hong Kong government said it was surprised that people with Chinese-issued travel documents were barred from China, and urged Chinese officials ``to talk to all shades of opinion in Hong Kong, especially the opinions of democratically elected representatives of the Hong Kong people.″

But pro-China legislator Allen Lee said the group knew ahead of time they would be rebuffed. ``It’s a publicity stunt,″ he said on Hong Kong radio.

Lee said China was open to criticism, provided it was delivered appropriately.

``Many of us go to Beijing and reflect different views to the Chinese government all the time,″ he said.