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China Bans Olympic Visits from Protests

July 30, 2008

China's Embattled Olympics
Joseph Grieboski, Foreign Editor
Cutting Edge News
July 28, 2008

The Beijing Organizing Committee (BOCOG) recently announced that all
foreigner visitors and non-resident Chinese attending the upcoming
Olympic Games are banned from both watching and participating in any
protests or public gatherings during the games. These rules apply
even to protests authorized by the Chinese Government. Chinese
citizens have a legal right to protest, but they must first apply for
permission from their local Public Security Bureau. Such requests are
rarely granted, and most demonstrations in China don't have official sanction.

BOCOG security director Liu Shaowu announced this week they have
established three protest zones in Beijing parks. However, there are
no zones near the Olympic venues. Instead, they are at the World Park
in the southwest, 3 miles from the softball venue; the Purple Bamboo
Park in the west, south of the volleyball arena; and Chaoyang Park in
the east where beach volleyball will be played.

It was not clear how easy access would be to enter the zones. Liu and
Beijing police would not say if special permission would be needed,
but Beijing has already refused visa requests for known foreign activists.

As Time Magazine reports, "Jean-Francois Julliard, deputy director of
Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based press freedom group that was
active in protesting during the international torch relay, says its
members had their latest visa applications for China rejected. 'They
want the Olympic Games to be a big success without any demonstrations
or any critical activities,' he says. If protesters can't even make
it into the country, then Beijing may find its protest zones
blissfully complaint free."

According to CNN, "the remarks were the first public confirmation
that Beijing may tolerate a modest amount of protest at an Olympics
that the government hoped would be flawless, boosting its popularity
at home and China's image abroad."

"We truly do want to preserve the festive and joyful atmosphere of
the Olympic Venues," Liu told a news conference. "At the same time we
want to reduce the impact security has on daily life."

In approving the protest zones, Liu noted that Athens set up such
areas for the 2004 games and that the Salt Lake City Winter Games of
2002 did as well. "We have already designated specific areas where
people or protesters who want to express their personal opinions can
go to do so," Liu said.

According to Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao, protests during
the Olympics are legislated under the "Law of the People's Republic
of China on Assemblies, Processions and Demonstrations."

According to Asia News, "this means that applications must be made to
the relevant Public Security Bureau five days in advance and include
the name of the person in charge, protest topic, the nature of
slogans and posters, the number of megaphones, the route and the timetable."

Under the law, police are authorized to delay a protest for up to
five days -- or simply reject the application two days before the
planned start.

Also according to the law, it is illegal for mainland citizens "who
do not reside in Beijing to apply for or to join a demonstration."

Foreigners wishing to protest must apply for permission just to
attend a demonstration, the law states. Overseas activists are likely
to try regardless. Time Magazine reports that Canadian Lhadon
Tethong, executive director of Student for a Free Tibet, was arrested
last August as she tried to make her way to a countdown event in
Tiananmen Square. "Tethong, who had been blogging in China about the
status of Tibetans, was expelled from the country along with six
foreign activists who hung a banner that read, "One World, One Dream;
Free Tibet 2008" on the Great Wall. She says Tibetan activists will
try again to conduct public protests during the Games. 'For us it's a
historic moment,' she says. 'It's an opportunity to raise the Tibetan
crisis of human rights and freedom and to bring it to the
international community and the Chinese leadership.'"

The law further permits police to detain demonstrators for up to 15
days if protestors display different posters and slogans than those
previously approved, change the timetable or the topic of the demonstration.

Beijing has justified such restrictions citing section 51 of the
International Olympic Committee charter which bars demonstrations or
"political, religious or racial propaganda" from all designated venues.

Cutting Foreign Editor Joseph Grieboski is President of the Institute
on Religion and Public Policy and Secretary General,
Interparliamentary Conference on Human Rights and Religious Freedom.
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