Gentle Olympic Critique Over Unused Protest Zones

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The New York Sun

The International Olympic Committee is offering a meek, couched critique of China for failing to grant any permits for demonstrations in the so-called protest zones that authorities announced to coincide with the Olympics.

“We would, of course, welcome that the areas are genuinely used,” a spokeswoman for the IOC, Giselle Davies, told a news conference yesterday, after stressing that the zones were not the responsibility of the local committee organizing the games.

China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, reported Monday that none of the 77 applications to use the zones were granted. The agency said 74 applications were withdrawn after the applicants’ grievances were addressed, while the others were denied or in suspense.

“I think you should be satisfied with that,” the executive vice president and secretary general of the Beijing organizing committee, Wang Wei, said. “The idea of demonstrations is hoping to resolve issues. It’s not demonstration for the sake of demonstration. … So, we’re actually quite pleased that many of the 77 cases were resolved.”

Mr. Wang said use of the parks was not a free speech issue. “I think everybody has the right to speak,” he said. “This is not the same as demonstrating.”

Meanwhile, a private group, Human Rights in China, said yesterday that two elderly Chinese nationals who tried to apply to protest were each sentenced to one year of “re-education through labor.”

Ms. Davies said she was unaware of the report. “The IOC took the decision to come to Beijing because opening the door, engaging, is the way forward,” she said.

Mr. Wang also insisted that a Chinese government propaganda directive relating to the Olympics does not exist, notwithstanding its publication in several Australian newspapers last week. “I can reiterate that there is no 21-point guideline for reporters in China to cover the games,” Mr. Wang said in response to a question from The New York Sun.

Josh Gerstein in Beijing

The New York Sun

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