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    » 08/07/2008, 00.00

    CHINA

    Olympics: an entire village arrested for protesting against pollution



    In Beijing small protests by Westerners are blocked, but Chinese up in arms against pollution end up in jail. Taiwan’s delegation is warmly received as Bush complains about human rights violation in China just before leaving for Beijing to honour his Chinese hosts.
    Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Small, isolated protests are taking place around Beijing, keeping the police busy trying to stop them. But in Yunnan province more than a hundred people were arrested for protesting against pollution.

    Today in Tiananmen Square the director of the Christian Defence Coalition, American Patrick Mahoney, had enough time in front of the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall to say "We have come here today to be a voice to those who are in prison because of their religious belief” before police surrounded him, preventing the many journalists present from interviewing him. He and two other American Christian activists were kneeling to pray before they were dragged away. By contrast police yesterday failed however to prevent four people from hanging two 13-square-metre banners on a utility pole in favour of a free Tibet.

    “This is the first of many [protests] that will happen throughout the month,” one of them said before they were deported.

    Across town at the Traders Hotel and Novotel Peace Hotel, rooms were painted with the word "release" on the wall and the names of five dissidents, including Hu Jia, the prominent AIDS activist jailed this year, and imprisoned house church leader Rev Zhang Rongliang.

    In a mock parody of the Games’ motto, ‘One World, One Dream,’ the words "Our World, Our Nightmare" were also elaborately painted by unknown guests.

    At noon, a Tibet-freedom group invited foreign journalists to a hotel near Workers' Stadium, where they wanted to show a film about Tibet on a computer. But they were stopped by the hotel manager who told them: “Think of the people who work here who are at risk.”

    What really scares Beijing though are not such isolated protests but violent street outbursts by its own citizens trying to defend their basic rights, incidents like the one that occurred on Monday in Xingquan, Huaping County, in distant Yunnan where 300 resident protested against a new cement plant polluting their water, clashing with company security. Some people were hurt and property damaged.

    The next morning police took into custody 107 people suspected of fighting "for further investigating.

    Huaping County Chief Cao Jinming vowed stability would be restored. “The criminals involved in this incident,” he said, “must all be dealt with sternly, harshly and swiftly.”

    Residents have been protesting for months without much success with the authorities, and protesting during the Olympics is even less likely to get anything from them. After all Beijing is faraway, its officials welcoming the last sport delegations.

    Yesterday Olympic Village mayor Chen Zhili, a former Politburo member and now a deputy chairman of the top legislature, warmly greeted Taiwanese athletes in Taiwan’s Minnan dialect, a goodwill gesture that was met with huge applause from the 42 Taiwanese coaches, athletes and officials.

    In the capital suspense is mounting ahead of tomorrow’s ceremony, a three-hour extravaganza that should tell China’s story from the stone age to today, mixing history and mythology, dragons and flying phoenixes, Confucius and Shaolin monks, and the legend of Pangu, who created the world by separating yin from yang.

    For analysts in such an atmosphere even US President George W. Bush’ statement expressing his “deep concern” over human rights violations in China appear secondary, even when reiterates that “America stands in firm opposition to China's detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists.”

    Also unimportant is the fact that a Sudanese-born runner, Lopez Lomong, who became an American citizen only 13 months ago and is a member of an athletes group critical of China's policies toward Darfur, was chosen to carry the US flag in the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

    What counts for China’s rulers is the fact that in a few hours Bush will arrive in Beijing, a welcome and expected guest at the ceremony inaugurating the Olympics.

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    See also

    07/08/2008 CHINA
    Chinese Olympic titan looks to sky, fearing rain
    Atmospheric conditions are worrying the organizers just hours before the inaugural ceremony for the games. At risk, some of the performances of what has been announced to be the most spectacular opening ever. For some time, China has been funding experiments to "control the weather".

    19/02/2008 CHINA
    Legal action against those who put human rights before the Olympics
    The trial begins against Yang Chunlin, in jail since July for "subversion" because he wrote that human rights take precedence over the Olympics. Meanwhile, the controversy over Darfur continues: those who criticise Beijing want only to tarnish its greatness, and Spielberg can't tell dreams from reality.

    25/07/2008 CHINA
    Foreigners banned from watching public protests in Beijing
    Public protests require authorisation based on rules so strict they are virtually impossible. Meanwhile air quality in capital does not improve. Authorities might announce a total ban on private cars.

    06/08/2008 CHINA
    "Free Tibet" banner raised in Beijing: four foreign tourists arrested
    Meanwhile, the torch winds through Beijing, but the authorities "recommend" watching this on television at home, "in order to avoid problems" in a city where freedom is on a constant decline. Human rights activist Xie Changfa has been in prison since August 2. The smog remains, while a storm approaches Hong Kong.

    08/04/2008 CHINA
    Olympics: following protests, China "locks down" the borders
    Entry visas are harder to obtain, and short-term visas from Hong Kong have been suspended, out of fear of protesters. Experts: this is evidence of weakness. Meanwhile, the Olympic committee will discuss whether to halt the torch's journey, after protests in Paris and London. Demonstrations in San Francisco already underway.



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