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Archive for Monday, August 4, 2008

Chinese grumble about Olympics, but quietly

Chinese blogger Zhang Heng is interviewed at his home last month in Shijiazhuang, in central China's Hebei province.

Chinese blogger Zhang Heng is interviewed at his home last month in Shijiazhuang, in central China's Hebei province.

August 4, 2008

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— From the desktop computer at the foot of his bed, Zhang Heng dares to complain about the Beijing Olympics.

The 24-year-old blogger tells of having to sign a "civilized behavior pledge" and verify to a neighborhood committee that he is a legal resident of his building. At the Web site company where he works, everyone had to show a clean police record because the Olympic torch route passed by the office last week.

While many Chinese are excited about the Olympics, which begin Friday, the games have also touched off a fair amount of grumbling. Most of it is quiet, though, because the government is quick to clamp down on protest.

"I think ordinary people have no opportunity to see the games, and I find it hard to accept that everyone around the country has to adjust their lives and work for it, just because this is about the country's image," Zhang said at his home in Shijiazhuang, a 3 1/2-hour drive from Beijing.

To top it off, he has to drag himself out of bed early on weekends to buy pancakes at the neighborhood stall; authorities have ordered it shut by 8:30 a.m. through the Olympics because they consider it unsightly.

His town is hosting no Olympic sports events and doesn't expect any tourist influx. But it's part of Hebei, the province that surrounds Beijing, and authorities clearly are taking no chances.

That Zhang can complain on his blog is one sign of freer speech in China. But exactly what is permitted remains fuzzy. The Olympics - the pride of the country - is an area where critics need to tread carefully.

A blog that took on the games directly - "Beijing Olympics: I Do Not Support It" - was shut last year after just six days.

"I didn't think I had done anything wrong," the site's creator, Guan Jun, wrote on another blog. "This is a warning to my friends who are trying to oppose the Beijing Olympics: Be careful."

Contacted recently, Guan declined further comment, saying the topic was "too sensitive."

In 2004, Ye Guozhu, whose Beijing home and restaurant were torn down to make way for an Olympic facility, was jailed for four years for trying to organize a protest. He was due to be released on July 26 but was detained again, apparently to prevent him from disrupting the Olympics, a human rights group said.

Lately the government has announced it will allow protests during the Olympics, but only at three designated areas several miles from the events.

Foreign and local protesters who want to speak out against the Beijing Olympics are also required to apply five days in advance and not harm "national interests," the security chief for the Olympic organizing committee said in a statement posted on the official Olympics news Web site Saturday.

"Assembling to march and protest is a citizen's right. But it must be stressed that when exercising this right, citizens must respect and not harm others' freedoms and rights and must not harm national, social and collective interests," Liu Shaowu, security chief for the Beijing Organizing Committee, said in the statement.

Comments

ginaxx 6 years, 4 months ago

Really cannot understand those people. Why not considering a country's benefit? It's a honor to get the this. Every country wants to get the right. Surely, everything has two sides. We should see which aspect is more. Just like the same-sex marriage, some ppl may like the same-sex marriage better. I know some ppl on the site BiLoves have such kind of marriage and they have a great life.

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