06/27/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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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.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - From April 1 to the end of October, dissidents in Shanghai are prohibited from speaking with foreign journalists, leaving the city, protesting, or petitioning the government.  Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) criticises China for "politicising" the passage of the torch through Tibet.

Dissident lawyer Zheng Enchong and the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy explain that, according to the new rules of the Public Security Bureau, those who petition will be warned and brought to Shanghai, the second time will go to jail for least 10 days, and if they persist, will be sent for forced labour in re-education camps.  The Public Security Bureau explains that this is necessary "for the purpose of strengthening public order during the Beijing Olympics and ensuring the successful conduct of the Olympics".  The dissidents must also present themselves "voluntarily" to the police each week, report their activities, and not participate in assemblies in public places.

Meanwhile, on June 21, during the passage of the torch through Lhasa, Zhang Qingli, head of the communist party in Tibet, predicted that "the red five-star flag will always fly above this land", and that "we can definitely smash the separatist plot of the Dalai Lama clique completely".

The IOC, in a rare official protest to the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (Bocog), said it "regrets that political statements were made during the closing ceremony of the torch relay", and reminded them of "the need to separate sport and politics and to ask for their support in making sure that such situations do not arise again".  This caused great embarrassment for Beijing: the Bocog has not released any comments, while Liu Jiancho, spokesman for the foreign ministry, has said that he is "unaware" of the IOC's letter.

Although propaganda has for years been publicising the "green Olympics", Beijing is facing a severe water emergency.  According to the Canadian environmental group Probe International, in order to provide water for visitors and clean up the city, sources that have already been tapped out will be used.  More than two thirds of Beijing's water is pumped from underground reservoirs, and since 2004, sources more than one kilometre deep, considered an "emergency" reserve, have been tapped.  The water is brought from Hebei through a huge channel dug for the Olympics, but the province has been suffering from drought for years, and even lacks water for farming. 

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