Beijing 2008: The Olympicsof suspicion and silence

Was China truly ready for the Olympics?
For China the Olympic Games were the most important event of the last few decades, a showcase for its organisational capacities and proof of its athletes’ physical prowess as they triumphed in the medal count. It was a show that the government in Beijing wanted “free of politics” but which itself “politicised” first. Here is an analysis by Li Datong, a Chinese journalist fired for criticising censorship.
Olympic flop for Beijing’s hospitality industry
The number of foreign tourists drops by 20 per cent over last year. Many give up because of the difficulty in getting a visa or out of fear for a possible attack. Hotels in the capital see occupancy rate collapse; only five star hotels save the day.
Underground Catholics defy police ban, celebrate mass with their bishop
It happened in Zhengding on the feast day of the Assumption. Fearing bad publicity during the Olympics, police allow Bishop Jia Zhiguo to celebrate mass, but he is still banned from meeting priests and seminarians.
Harsh economic winter to follow Olympics
The Olympic Games have not been an engine of growth for China’s economy. The government has waited before taking the tough decisions in order to contain inflation and avoid popular protests. Now it must face the economy’s structural problems like the rising cost of energy and raw materials and lower exports. Experts look at the issue.
Beijing, religious freedom according to the Olympics
Foreigners are guaranteed ceremonies, meetings and even mass in their own language; Chinese Catholics from the Official Church are ordered not to hold large gatherings that last too long. Bishops and priests from the underground Church are under house arrest. Msgr. Giulio Jia Zhiguo under round the clock police surveillance. The pretty pictures of China Daily.
Lot of criticism and many tears after China’s top champion Liu Xiang pulls out
Liu withdraws from race because of an injury to the right leg. For years the gold medal winner in Athens and former record holder made the Chinese dream about a possible win in a field ruled by the United States; now fans are distraught. The case is having a wider impact. Blogs that criticised him for deceiving the public are blocked as the government shows its support to the champion.
Hong Kong bishop Tong in Beijing for Games, without meeting city's bishop
A visit to the bishop of Beijing was judged as "inconvenient". Beijing must work harder to improve the life of the population, including from the spiritual point of view, beyond the moment of the Olympics.
World leaders welcomed to Beijing. Silence on human rights and terrorist threats
Hu Jintao greets 80 international political figures. Press and TV do not mention the threat of attacks, but residents are afraid to leave their homes. The local population is absent from celebrations. Dissidents, protestant pastor, bishops under surveillance. Jacques Rogge gives his “blessing” to Beijing’s “good” air.
“We pray for the success of the Games” and for the dream of a better world
The prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile gives an interview. He extends his best wishes to the people of China who have “every right to enjoy the grandeur of the Olympics”. He criticises the government of China but also the rule of economic interests and trade over rights and principles. He calls for a day of prayer and fasting on 30 August.
Tibetans involved in non-stop protests but Dalai Lama sends his best wishes for Olympics
Thousands meet for a series of initiatives. Many are still concerned that nothing may change. Indian police detain 56 Tibetans who wanted to cross the border. Dalai Lama sends his prayers and wishes for the success of the Olympics, a great event for 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".
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.
The Olympic torch arrives in Beijing, amid tight security and expropriations
Yang Liwei, the first Chinese astronaut and basketball star Yao Ming are the first to carry the flame. Beijing residents are invited to remain at home to avoid problems. “Great China” is on the world stage. A group of protesters take to Tiananmen Square against the expropriation of their houses.
Pope: May China open itself to the Gospel
Visiting the church of Oies, the birthplace of the missionary Saint Josef Freinademetz, Benedict XVI again considers Beijing, and stresses that "faith is not an alienation for any culture or any people".
"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.
Pope: best wishes for Beijing Games; remembrance of Paul VI
Benedict XVI hopes that the Beijing Olympics may be a "pledge of fraternity and peace among peoples", and may unfold "in respect of common dignity". Remembrance of the "superhuman merit" of Paul VI, for guiding the Church in the difficult post-council phase.
Benedict XVI's wishes for Beijing and the Olympics
The "cordial greetings" at today's Angelus might bring hope that a step forward has been made by China and the Vatican on the occasion of the Games. But many international Catholic websites are still blocked, while three bishops have disappeared, dozens are under house arrest, and a number of priests are in prison.
Chinese activists to Bush and Sarkozy: Don't forget us at the Games
An open letter to Bush and Sarkozy, asking that their participation at the opening ceremony of the Games not serve only to honour the Chinese leaders. Concrete gestures against violations of rights requested. Meanwhile, killings and arrests of Uyghurs and Tibetans continue.
The China that says "no" to the Olympics
One month before the Games in Beijing, the people are increasingly disillusioned over the Olympics. In a survey conducted by AsiaNews in China, many criticize the authorities for waste, corruption, surveillance. Instead of an image campaign, the 20 billion euros could have been used to overcome poverty and illiteracy, truly realizing the slogan of Hu Jintao: put the people first.
Wanted: Olympic athletes to remember Tibet in Beijing
Pro-Tibet groups launch a campaign for Olympic athletes to remember the persecution in Tibet. Meanwhile, more than 1,000 monks are in prison, and will be freed only after the Games.
Beijing ready for Olympics of suspicion and silence
One month before the Olympic Games, the capital is surrounded by a military cordon of security and anti-terrorism measures. The government says it wants to stop "hostile foreign forces", but in reality the intention is to ensure the silence and obedience of the population. Meanwhile, the projected number of foreign tourists is falling.
In Qindao, Olympic regatta threatened by algae invasion
More than 10,000 workers are fighting around the clock to clean the surrounding area. More than 100,000 tonnes of algae have already been removed, but the situation is still serious (see the photo in the article). China has been invaded by algae for years, especially in rivers and lakes, and a fourth of the population lacks sources of drinking water.
For the Olympics, prohibited to protest or speak with foreign journalists
In Shanghai, rigid new rules of "public order": prison for those who violate them. Meanwhile, the Olympic Committee warns Beijing to "separate sport and politics" after authorities in Lhasa used the torch to express hopes for "final victory" over the Dalai Lama. Water shortage in Beijing.
Tibet reopens to foreign tourism, with restrictions for journalists and tourists
More than three months after the repression, foreign tourists are returning to Tibet, but they need special permits to go outside of Lhasa. Severe restrictions are still in place for journalists. Meanwhile, those who protested remain in prison, and talks with the Dalai Lama are not moving forward.
Olympic torch in Tibet, but only "for a day". Tibetans arrested in India
The originally scheduled relay points have been reduced to one, in Lhasa next Saturday; Chinese authorities justify the change through problems related to the earthquake in Sichuan. In the meantime, 50 participants in the "March of return" are arrested on the border between India and the autonomous region.
Fireworks banned in Beijing during Olympics
The government bans fireworks and traditional firecrackers in the latest attempt to prevent threats to national security. Restrictions are imposed on potentially risky public transit and gas stations.
Olympics, bishop of Hong Kong invited to inaugural ceremony
The Chinese government has invited John Tong Hon, coadjutor bishop of the territory. The invitation, which was not extended to Cardinal Zen, has been accepted. Some experts describe it as "a gesture of good will", which nonetheless seems to be "only a matter of protocol".
Heroes of Tiananmen still in prison
A long report by Chinese Human Rights Defender highlights how some people are still in prison, whilst others are still subject to government surveillance and persecution for taking part in the 1989 demonstrations against corruption and the Communist dictatorship.
Chinese migrants in heavy debt after having worked on the Olympic dream
The story of migrant worker Zheng , proud to have been part of the Olympic labour force, but swindled out of his salary by the building companies. And by a State that is more concerned about its image on the world stage than every day justice.
Three billion dollars a year from China for the genocide in Darfur
Tomorrow, two envoys from the Dalai Lama in Beijing to begin the scheduled talks. In Hong Kong, actress Mia Farrow asks Beijing to "use its great influence" to stop the massacre in Darfur. Meanwhile, the torch passes through Hong Kong without serious problems.