August 25, 2008

Authoritarian China Breaks Its Promises

China's leaders would have the world believe that the country is just one big happy place where none of the 1.3 billion citizens ever complains. The reality is altogether different, and only the heavy hand of repression has kept the real picture from emerging.

It is already clear that the government never had any intention of keeping its promises to the International Olympic Committee to allow preapproved demonstrations in designated areas. As of Wednesday, according to the Chinese news agency Xinhua, the authorities had received 77 requests to protest during the Olympics, and all but two had been dismissed - and even those two were placed on hold. In several well-documented instances, demonstrators seeking permits have been detained.

Solemn promises of free and unrestricted reporting for foreign journalists also have been abandoned. In a number of incidents, police harassed and prevented journalists from working. A correspondent for Britain's Independent Television News was hauled away from an unapproved pro-Tibet demonstration and thrown into the back of a police van. His equipment was confiscated.

The censorship extends to the Internet. Before the Games began, we expressed the hope that a partial lifting of a ban on some Internet sites would prompt more openness. That didn't work. Many sites, including any relating to Tibetan independence or the Falun Gong, remain closed to journalists.

These actions will forever tarnish the Beijing Games. They say more about the authoritarian nature of the Chinese regime and the way its rulers use fear to remain in control than all the medals won by their athletes.

The Miami Herald

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