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Fun is latest casualty of Beijing security drive

April 25, 2008

By Lindsay Beck

BEIJING, Thursday April 24 2008 (Reuters) - Fun has become the latest
casualty of Beijing's drive to ensure security in the sensitive time
ahead of the Olympics Games, with at least four outdoor events cancelled
or curtailed within a month.

The most recent is the Midi Festival, an outdoor rock event at a Beijing
park that would be in its ninth year, but which is unlikely to be
allowed to go ahead on its original May 1-4 dates.

"Recently, there have been several aspects of the international and
domestic situation that are sensitive and complex," festival organiser
Zhang Fan was quoted as saying in comments posted at

"The overall interests of the Olympic Games must be safeguarded by
everyone, so if the relevant authorities demand it, we are most likely
to put the overall situation first," said Zhang, who also runs the music
school associated with the event.

Reached by telephone, people at the school said there was still no
definitive word on the fate of the event, but one music promoter said
foreign bands involved were treating it as cancelled.

China is at pains to maintain stability ahead of the Beijing Games,
which open on Aug. 8, an effort that has been strained by unrest
throughout its Tibetan regions and by a wave of nationalist and
anti-French protests around the country.

The May long weekend is also a sensitive time in China and a flashpoint
for activism since the May Fourth Movement of 1919, a student-led,
anti-imperialist drive.

Midi is one of a long line of events that have been cancelled or postponed.


Canadian pop superstar Celine Dion's April 13 Beijing concert was called
off, a month after Icelandic singer Bjork stirred controversy in
Shanghai by chanting "Tibet! Tibet!" during her show there.

The European Union had planned a carnival in Beijing's Chaoyang Park for
mid-May to celebrate ties between Europe and China, but a spokesman for
the European Commission said organisers had been unable to get a permit
for security reasons.

A street festival in a trendy Beijing neighbourhood set for the weekend
of April 12-13 also had the plug pulled at the last minute.

"The Monday before the festival everything was fine and then Tuesday
morning they called up and said it was cancelled," said Dominic
Johnson-Hill, who owns a shop in the street.

"On this occasion, there was no budging. It was just, 'it's cancelled,
we're going to do it after the Olympics'."

Both the street festival and Midi could be re-scheduled for October, a
date Beijing residents are beginning to pine for as pre-Olympics hassles
and inconveniences pile up.

Ahead of the Games, China has been subjecting foreigners to tighter visa
restrictions, and foreign residents must register at their local police
station each time they return to the capital after leaving the country.

Residents have also been subjected to random street checks of identity
cards and passports. (Editing by Alex Richardson) ("Countdown to Beijing
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