In one of the strongest displays of Chinese nationalism seen in Melbourne, about 3000 pro-Chinese Olympic torch relay supporters tonight boarded more than 50 buses destined for Canberra and the Australian leg of the troubled Beijing Olympic torch relay.

The crowd of mostly Chinese students, carrying flags and wearing pro-China T-shirts, boarded buses outside the Telstra Dome for the 10-hour drive to Canberra to witness tomorrow’s torch relay through the capital.

Despite suggestions the Chinese Embassy in Melbourne had organised the convoy, there was little sense of impending trouble between the crowd and any pro-Tibet demonstrators who might try a repeat of the ugly torch relay scenes in London and Paris.

“We are going there to celebrate the torch,”  post-graduate student Bin Hua told The Age.

Former deputy lord mayor Wellington Lee, a fourth generation Chinese, was among a sprinkling of older Chinese who joined the convoy.

He said he joined the group to show solidarity.

“The Press hasn’t been kind to China. More than that, it has been pretty anti-China,” he said.

Organisers insisted there was no Chinese Embassy involvement in the protest, but Deakin University academic Damien Kingsbury told The Age it was most likely.

“It’s almost impossible that the Chinese Embassy is not involved in some way,” he said.

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