Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Freedom of Speech?

Beijing is doing everything it can to prevent protesters from coming in to disrupt the Games.

The first line of defense are Chinese embassies, doing their best to weed out possible trouble makers coming in on tourist visas.

The second ring of defense is the International Olympic Committee rule that people are not allowed to carry large banners, distribute leaflets or even wear clothing with large messages written on them.

But if you must protest, the Chinese government will let you -- as long as you apply for a permit in advance.

And if you do get approved, you can stage your protest -- and it must be peaceful -- in one of three designated parks in Beijing's Fengtai, Haidian and Chaoyang districts.

"We have dedicated places for demonstrations at several parks," Liu Shaowu, director of the security department at Beijing's Olympics organising committee, told a news conference.

"Chinese law protects the legal right of people to hold lawful demonstrations and marches."

When pressed for further details, Liu declined to say whether anyone had applied yet or whether there were certain causes or groups whose applications would be rejected, deferring such questions to the Beijing police and municipal government, who he said would handle applications.

A Reuters reporter faxed questions to the Beijing police, but there was no immediate comment.

It will be interesting if anyone or any group will be approved. It might be an opportunity for China to show it does have freedom of expression, or it's the Chinese version of a bureaucratic deterrent to avoid embarassing the government.

We'll just have to wait and see.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Much the same as Hyde Park corner in London. In a crowded city like Beijing too many public gatherings will clog up foot traffic. I think it is reasonable for the government to set aside areas for free speech.