August 25, 2008

China and the Olympic Games of Censorship

The following editorial appeared in the Miami Herald on Thursday, Aug. 21:

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 and everyone is content to do as they're told. The reality is altogether different, and only the heavy hand of repression - complete with intimidation, arrests and truncheon-wielding police - has kept the real picture from emerging.

The Games still have a few more days to go, but 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 have 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. It didn't work out that way. 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.

(c) 2008 Bismarck Tribune. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.