Olympic torch is greeted with joy in China
The torch relay is currently in Guangdong province in China’s far south, neighbouring Hong Kong, and crowds of tens of thousands of onlookers have swarmed the routes it has taken.
In Guangzhou, the flame was extinguished four times as police cordons were breached by the throng. Eventually the route had to be changed.
In Shenzhen, photographs showed trees wilting under the weight of the number of young people who had climbed into their branches to take pictures with their mobile phones.
Witnesses described chaotic scenes as police and armed police stationed at ten-yard intervals were unable to sustain the weight of the crowds.
While there were reports in some Hong Kong media that at one stage a protester was able to get to the torch and put out the flame, this was denied by the Chinese authorities.
Criticism of the handling of the torch relay abroad has stirred up a weight of nationalist feeling in China, fanned by the government and reflected in demonstrations targeting foreign, and particularly French institutions.
The disruption of the Paris leg of the torch relay received the most critical coverage in China.
The effect on the treatment of the torch, which has been billed by state media as a symbol of China’s growing status in the world, was visible in its first stop on the Chinese mainland, the southern island of Hainan.
Villagers from the highlands, traditionally a particularly backwards region of China, walked for hours just to get a glimpse of the flame as it passed.
”We are all very excited because this is the first time the Olympics have come to China,” the South China Morning Post quoted a farmer, Mr Hu as saying.