08/04/2008, 00.00
CHINA
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Beijing gets a blue sky, demonstrators get beaten and activists get arrested

Beijing welcomes foreign athletes under a blue sky. Police stop demonstrators from talking to journalists. A pro-democracy activist is reported arrested by police. Journalists must make a “reservation” if they want to cover Tiananmen Square. Torch relay reaches a devastated Sichuan where there is no electricity.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A bright, blue sky greeted athletes in Beijing in the last few days, raising hopes that the smog clouds that lingered in the last few weeks might be gone. By contrast, dissident Wang Rongqing was arrested and anyone who is daring enough to protest gets beaten by police.

A group of about 20 protesters scuffled with police in the historic Qianmen district just south of Tiananmen, saying the happiness of the Beijing Olympics was built on their pain. They complained that they had been evicted from their homes to make way for reconstruction of the district that is being rebuilt into a commercial strip with businesses such as Nike, Starbucks and Rolex.

Eyewitnesses said that the protesters were trying to speak to the media, but were removed by police right away.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders also learnt that Wang Rongqing, a member of China Democracy Party, was arrested for “inciting subversion of state power".

A pro-democracy activist since the late 1970s Mr Wang has already been arrested three times for demanding a multi-party democracy and criticising the regime for its denial of religious freedom.

Games organisers are however more concerned about air pollution, quite happy that Beijing’s sky was blue yesterday and the air quality was “good” after rain and wind cleared away the smog that hung over it.

China’s state council has been constantly monitoring the situation.

Premier Wen Jiabao said China was a responsible country and would honour all of its international commitments, including one to host the "green Games".

In a new atmosphere of openness to the outside world China has even invited a foreign orchestra to play for the first time in Tiananmen Square.

For their part Beijing municipal authorities issued a statement on the city’s website on Saturday demanding Chinese and overseas reporters make telephone reservations if they want to report “large-scale cultural events” or take pictures “in an orderly manner” in the square during the Games.

This said the Beijing Meteorological Bureau is concerned about rain on the day of the opening ceremony, and warned typhoons could disrupt events in host cities such as Qingdao, Shanghai and Hong Kong this coming week-end.

Meanwhile the Olympic torch relay has reached Sichuan, the province devastated by an earthquake on 12 May.

Entire communities are still isolated from the rest of the world and a 6.1 tremor hit the area just last Friday jolting the border area between Beichuan and Pingwu counties.

Unlike other places there were no celebrations when the torch relay made its way in the province.

Indeed in many parts of the province there is still no electrical power and to many locals next Friday’s opening ceremony appears more like something from another planet.

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