Police have been handed ‘Chinese-style’ powers to enter private homes and seize political posters during the London 2012 Olympics.
Little-noticed measures passed by the Government will allow officers and Olympics officials to enter homes and shops near official venues to confiscate any protest material.
Breaking the rules could land offenders with a fine of up to £20,000.
Civil liberties groups compared the powers to those used by the Communist Chinese government to stop political protest during the 2008 Beijing Games.
Anita Coles, of Liberty, said: ‘Powers of entry should be for fighting crime, not policing poster displays. Didn’t we learn last time that the Olympics should not be about stifling free expression?’
The powers were introduced by the Olympics Act of 2006, passed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, supposedly to preserve the monopoly of official advertisers on the London 2012 site.
They would allow advertising posters or hoardings placed in shop or home to be removed.
But the law has been drawn so widely that it also includes ‘non-commercial material’ – which could extend its reach to include legitimate campaign literature.
Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘This is a Government who just doesn’t understand civil liberties. They may claim these powers won’t be used but the frank truth is no one will believe them.’
Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne said: ‘This sort of police action runs the risk of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. ‘We should aim to show the Chinese that you can run a successful Olympics without cracking down on protestors and free speech.’
Scotland Yard denied it had any plans to use the powers.