07/18/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Beijing 2008: bars forbidden to serve "blacks" and Mongolians, outdoor tables banned

Many bans and restrictions, with serious inconveniences for the population. The first "leaks" on the grandiose inauguration on August 8, with an unprecedented fireworks display.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - For "reasons of safety", bars are forbidden to serve "blacks"" and Mongolians or place tables in the street. Street musicians are being banned, and so is buying medicines containing "stimulants" without a prescription. Prohibitions are on the rise for the Olympic capital, while the first leaks reveal a grandiose fireworks display for the inauguration.

Bar owners around the Workers' Stadium in downtown Beijing say that public security officials are telling them not to let in "blacks" and Mongolians, and many of them have even had to sign a pledge. The official reason is the fight against drugs and prostitution, dominated in the past by Mongolians and persons of colour. Moreover, public places must close by 2 a.m., for security reasons, and the bar owners are being asked to remind their clients that they must always have an identification document with them. There is even doubt over whether the bars within a radius of two kilometres from the Olympic buildings will be able operate, or whether they will have to shut down for the entire period. In some areas, tables are not permitted outside, because "the presence of too many foreigners gathered outside could create problems". There is also an attempt to shut down outdoor musical concerts, to prevent disorder.

Jazz musician David Mitchell says that it is increasingly difficult for his band to find places to play in Beijing "Everything is aimed at creating stability, but they don't understand that is precisely the unfounded prejudice that foreigners have of Chinese society - that it is a highly controlled and not a very cultural place. It seems completely self-defeating".

To guarantee a "clean" Olympics, a doctor's prescription is now required for 1,993 commonly used medicines, or the package must show a warning that the product contains substances believed to be stimulating and not permitted for the athletes. One must go to a hospital to get a prescription, but many of the hospitals ask for as much as 100 yuan for each prescription, causing problems for the elderly and the poor most of all.

Meanwhile, as of July 20 a new regulation will go into effect prohibiting everyday circulation for millions of vehicles, but the three new underground lines are not yet working, and Zhou Zhengyu, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications, is unable to say when they will be opened.

But the inauguration on August 8 will be very well prepared. The programme is "secret", but it is hard to hide a fireworks display, and those who live near the Bird's Nest stadium and have seen the trial runs say they are impressed. The director Zhang Yimou has been preparing the show for three years with artists from all over the world: there was a general rehearsal on July 10, with hundreds of police standing guard to guarantee secrecy.

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