Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Between Aug. 17 and 20, about 1.3 million of the city's 3 million vehicles will be ordered off the streets each day, in attempts to reduce air pollution ahead of the August 2008 Olympics. But the media has been banned from reporting on the ensuing hardships created by this move. Meanwhile the architect of the “Bird’s nest” has denounced the “false smiles” of the government in view of the Games.
The ban on over a third of the cities vehicles depending on whether licence plates end in an odd or even number will be accompanied by careful measuring of the air quality. It is hoped that pollution will be reduced by over 40%. Announcing the move yesterday, Liu Xiaoming, a city traffic official, said over 2 million people a day will have to use public transport, as a result services will be extended, starting half an hour before the normal time. Many shopping malls will stay open an hour later than closing times. Public officials and state employees will also be affected, their cars will be “cut” by 70%. An “open letter” to residents urges them to use public transport and bicycles, recalling them to the “noble responsibility” of hosting the Games.
But yesterday the press received a circular from the Communist Party’s propaganda officers forbidding them to report on the difficulties that there will certainly be. They also announced careful inspections of web sites which host discussion forums to avoid diffusion of complaints on the traffic disruptions.
Exhaust fumes and particles are a constant ill for the City, producing a cloud of smog which covers the sky for most of the year. To the point that Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee has suggested that endurance competitions such as the marathon and cycling could be moved elsewhere. Most athletes plan to arrive in Beijing as late as possible, even up to 4 or 5 days before hand, as was indicated by John Coates, chief of the Australian delegation.
Meanwhile Ai Weiwei, one of China’s most famous architects and author of the new Olympic Stadium the “Bird’s nest”, has criticised the “false image” of well being and happiness presented by the government during the August 8th pre-Olympic Ceremony. Ai spent 5 years in a forced labour camp in remote Xinjiang where his father Ai Qing, one of the greatest modern poets was also sent during the “purge” of the ‘50s when he was labelled “an enemy of the state and a right wing supporter”.
Ai told Reuters, that a nation cannot “celebrate its present and be so proud if it has forgotten its past. It must carefully examine itself, rather than force a false smile on everything”. Beijing is attempting to hide “too many things. The entire political structure, the human rights situation…corruption, pollution, education problems”. “And so they say: let’s forget everything and light fireworks”. “These people have a great opportunity but they are allowing themselves to be manipulated, because they have no self awareness”.