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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

China Might Bar Tiananmen Broadcasts

March 23, 2008


BEIJING March 22, 2008 (AP) — China might bar live television broadcasts
from Tiananmen Square during the Beijing Olympics, apparently unnerved
by the recent outburst of unrest among Tibetans and fearful of protests
in the heart of the Chinese capital.

A ban on live broadcasts would disrupt the plans of NBC and other major
international networks, who have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to
broadcast the Aug. 8-24 games and are counting on eye-pleasing live
shots from the iconic square.

The rethinking of Beijing's earlier promise to broadcasters comes as the
government has poured troops into Tibetan areas wracked by
anti-government protests this month and stepped up security in cities,
airports and entertainment venues far from the unrest.

In another sign of the government's unease, 400 American Boy Scouts who
had been promised they could onto the field following a March 15
exhibition game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres
were prevented from doing so by police.

"It was never specifically mentioned to me it was because of Tibet that
there were extra controls, but there were all these changes at the last
minute," said a person involved in the Major League Baseball event who
asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The communist government's resorting to heavy-handed measures runs the
risk of undermining Beijing's pledge to the International Olympic
Committee that the games would promote greater openness in what a
generation ago was still an isolated China. If still in place by the
games, they could alienate the half-million foreigners expected at the

Like the Olympics, live broadcasts from Tiananmen Square were meant to
showcase a friendly, confident China — one that had put behind it the
deadly 1989 military assault on democracy demonstrators in the vast
plaza that remains a defining image for many foreigners.

"Tiananmen is the face of China, the face of Beijing so many
broadcasters would like to do live or recorded coverage of the square,"
said Yosuke Fujiwara, the head of broadcast relations for the Beijing
Olympic Broadcasting Co., or BOB, a joint-venture between Beijing
Olympic organizers and an IOC subsidiary. BOB coordinates and provides
technical services for the TV networks with rights to broadcast the
Olympics, such as NBC.

Earlier this week, however, officials with the Beijing Olympics
Organizing Committee, or BOCOG, told executives at BOB that the live
shots were canceled, according to three people familiar with the matter
who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the

"We learned that standup positions would be canceled," one of these
people said. "No explanation was given for the change."

Sun Weijia, the BOCOG official in charge of dealing with BOB, declined
comment, referring the matter to press officers, three of whom also
declined to comment. IOC offices were closed Friday for the Easter
holiday; two spokeswomen did not immediately return e-mails and phone
calls seeking comment.

The decision by BOCOG may not be final. The change was relayed verbally,
one person said. All three hoped that IOC President Jacques Rogge and
other leading IOC officials, expected in Beijing next month for
regularly scheduled meetings, may be able to prevail on BOCOG to change
its mind.

If the decision stands, it would be a blow to the TV networks whose
money to buy the right to broadcast the games accounts for more than
half the IOC's revenues. The biggest spender is NBC. It paid $2.3
billion for the rights for three Olympics from 2004 to 2008 — Athens,
Turin and Beijing.

Officials at NBC refused to comment.

The unrest — which broke out March 10 in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa
and has since spread across western China — and the government's harsh
response underscores the communist leaders' unease as the Olympics approach.

With paramilitary police patrolling Beijing at night and journalists
being expelled from Tibetan areas, security measures are on par with
those not seen since the government mobilized police to crush the Falun
Gong spiritual movement in 1999-2000.

Activist groups have said for months that they planned to use the
Olympics to promote their causes. But the challenge faced by China's
leadership seems to grow more imminent.

Aside from Tibet protests, the government said it foiled a plot this
month by Muslim separatists in western China to blow up a China Southern
Boeing 757. Foreign activists angry about China's support for Sudan,
which is party to a civil war in Darfur, said this week they would
demonstrate in Beijing during the games.

After the Icelandic singer Bjork shouted "Tibet!" at the finale of a
Shanghai concert this month, officials ordered tighter scrutiny of all

The Boy Scouts seemed to get caught in a response to both the sometimes
violent Tibet protests and Bjork; police canceled all on-field
entertainment for the exhibition baseball games, including the singing
of the Chinese and U.S. national anthems.

BOCOG officials began signaling their discomfort with live broadcasts in
Tiananmen Square to the IOC a year ago but discussions went back and
forth, according to the people involved. The square — overlooked by a
large portrait of communist founder Mao Zedong — has been a magnet for
protests for decades.

AP Sports writer Stephen Wade contributed to this story.
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