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Unlucky start to Games countdown (Scotsman)
3. Unlucky start to Games countdown (Scotsman)
BEN BLANCHARD IN BEIJING
August 8, 2007
FREE Tibet activists on the Great Wall, a barrage of critical human
rights reports, a shroud of smog over Beijing - China's government must
surely have imagined a more auspicious start for the Olympics countdown.
On top of that, the flood of food-safety scandals shows no sign of
abating and a group of dissidents has written an open letter to the
president, Hu Jintao, calling for the Games slogan to be changed to "One
World, One Dream, Same Human Rights".
The weather is also refusing to co-operate in the run-up to the eighth
day of the eighth month today, which will start the one-year countdown
to the opening ceremony.
Torrential rain has brought Beijing traffic to a standstill several
times, and it seems so long since the sun broke through the pollution
that some are dubbing Beijing "Greyjing".
And few are convinced by government pledges on media freedom. On Monday,
police prevented several journalists from leaving a Reporters Without
Borders conference calling for increased media freedom. They were let go
two hours later.
"The harassment and detention of journalists make Beijing's Olympic
pledge on media freedoms seem more like a public-relations ploy than a
sincere policy initiative," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said China was
holding at least 29 reporters and editors behind bars because of their
"A decade ago we saw a tendency towards the liberalisation of the media
in China and, under the Hu government, we've seen a backing away from
that," committee Asia's programme co-ordinator, Bob Dietz, told reporters.
Celebrations to kick off the one-year countdown start today with a
series of colourful events across the city, including in central
Tiananmen Square, where soldiers bloodily put down pro-democracy
protests in 1989.
Ding Zilin, whose son was killed in the protests and who leads a
campaign to seek redress for the events of 1989, was one of 40 people
who signed an open letter to the government calling for more freedoms
ahead of the Olympics.
"Let Chinese citizens who have been forced into exile because of
politics, religion or belief come home, so they can enjoy the Olympics
in their motherland," the letter said.
In an open letter yesterday to Hu Jintao, the premier, Wen Jiabao, and
the Olympic Committee president, Jacques Rogge, a group of 40 well-known
Chinese dissidents - including the environmental author Dai Qing - said
Olympic fanfare was obscuring widespread civil-rights abuses.
"We find no consolation in the rise of grandiose sports facilities, or a
temporarily beautified Beijing city, or the prospect of Chinese athletes
winning medals," the letter said. "We know too well how these glories
are built on the ruins of the lives of ordinary people, on the forced
removal of urban migrants, and on the sufferings of victims of
land-grabbing, forced eviction, exploitation of labour and arbitrary
As if the government needed reminding about the potential for protests
at the Games, the Free Tibet Campaign said six demonstrators had been
detained for unfurling a banner on the Great Wall.
Tenzin Dorjee, the deputy director of Students for a Free Tibet, said:
"By protesting at the Great Wall, we're sending a message that China's
dream of international leadership cannot be realised as long as it
continues its brutal occupation of Tibet."
Health in the country that spawned the SARS respiratory syndrome and
whose tainted pet food, toothpaste and cough medicine have caused
worldwide alarm, is another concern.
Olympic organisers have promised to use satellite tracking to monitor
food supplies for the Games and have stressed that hygiene is a top
But still the bad news comes. The government is trying to crack down on
diseased pork entering the market, a phenomenon which has increased as
prices rise on the back of an epidemic which has killed one million pigs
in a year.
If the food doesn't kill you, the smog might. It is the reason Chinese
city traffic police have a life expectancy of 43.
SOMETHING IN THE AIR LEAVES PLANS UNDER A CLOUD
AUSTRALIAN athletes have been advised to delay their arrival for the
2008 Olympic Games because of the poor air quality in Beijing, the
country's Olympic chief, John Coates, has said.
Cleaning up the air of the Chinese capital is one of the biggest hurdles
facing organisers in the year remaining until the Games.
"It's probably the biggest issue for us and our team," Mr Coates said.
"The head coaches have gathered enough information to certainly confirm
that we would not be recommending a long period in China before the
Games. That is only going to increase the possibility of respiratory or
He said the athletes would do their final preparations at home before
going to the Olympic village, as they did for the Seoul Games in 1988.
"You won't be seeing too many of our athletes until four or five days
before their competition," he said.
The Australian Olympic Committee president said Beijing organisers had
confirmed that they would take a large proportion of the city's three
million cars off the road this month to test the effect on pollution and
Although a cloud of smog blanketed Beijing early yesterday, the Beijing
Meteorological Office categorised it as a "blue-sky day" - where
pollution levels are "fairly good" or better. "I haven't done any
scientific tests, but it certainly doesn't look too good in downtown
Beijing," Mr Coates said.
Articles in this Issue:
- Tibetan Canadian Observer detained in Beijing (SFT)
- One World, One Dream, One Big Human Rights Problem (Der Spiegel)
- Unlucky start to Games countdown (Scotsman)
- Great Wall protest (Vancouver Sun)
- China detains third Canadian, a leader of activist group seeking free
- 3rd Canadian detained by China, student group says (CBC)
- Activists arrested in China (The Province)
- Protesters in action as Beijing gets set for one-year countdown to
- Parents worried after 2 Vancouverites reportedly held in China (CBC)
- Canadians detained in China now leaving country, reports say
- Activists Step Up Criticism of China, One Year Before Beijing
- Beijing Olympics can't avoid political issues (New Zealand Herald)
- China: Human-Rights Pressure Increases As Olympic Countdown Begins
- Thousands of Tibetans march in Indian capital against China's rule
in Tibet (AP)
- Tibetans protest 2008 Beijing Olympics (ANI)
- Tibetans to hold massive rally against Chinese government (IANS)
- Indian Tibetans march to shame Olympics host China (Reuters)
- Terror in Tibet
- Sinopec establishes exploration base in Tibet
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