Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Protests in China: Reality vs. Rhetoric

"We think that you do not really understand China's reality. China has its own version and way of exercising our democracy," Wang Wei, vice president of the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, told journalists.

Oh no, Mr. Wang, we understand quite well.

China is being pressured to show it has improved its human rights record, as it promised to do as it vied to host the Olympics. Before the Games opened, it said political protests were not forbidden. They'd be allowed in three parks. Of course, the parks are far from the game venues. And if you want to protest, you must follow the rules. Fill out applications with detailed paperwork five days in advance. Protests must not harm "national, social and collective interests."

And here's the kicker. Out of 77 applications for protests received, not one has been approved: 74 were "withdrawn," two were suspended and one was rejected.

This is China's reality: No matter what the government has said or says now, it is not open to protest or free speech. Period.

Posted by Mary Newsom