08/02/2008, 00.00
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Beijing, police blocking protests even in designated parks

Groups that want to demonstrate or present petitions are not being listened to, and are being kicked out of the city. And yet the government, during the period of the Olympics, had guaranteed freedom to demonstrate in three parks in Beijing.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Representatives of groups that were asking for permission to demonstrate and present petitions in Beijing have been rudely ejected by the police. Just a few days ago, Liu Shaowu, head of security for the Olympic organizing committee, had announced that during the Olympics public protests will be permitted, although they will be limited to three parks in the city, which are not near the Olympic sites. They are: Ritan park in the neighborhood of Chaoyang, Purple Bamboo in Haidian, and Beijing World in Fengtai.

And instead the police continue to deny permission, and even refuse to hear the requests.

The representative of a property group in Suzhou (Jiangsu), who came to Beijing yesterday, immediately went to the public security office to ask for permission to launch a petition against the illegal expropriation of property in the area. The police stopped her, and first told her that she would have to make her request in the area she had come from (Suzhuo); they then told her that this would be useless, because she would never receive permission; finally, they forced her to get on a train and return home.

Other groups have also been rejected by the police, who will not even hear their request. These include a group of property owners from Taiwan, and an anti-Japanese association fighting for Chinese sovereignty over the Diaoyu islands.

According to observers, the Beijing government is divided: on the one hand, it is seeking to present a modern and open face, guaranteeing the freedom to demonstrate in theory (at least in the designated areas); on the other, it is afraid that the Games could become an opportunity for thousands of people to bring to light all of the injustices they have suffered. So in the capital, a crackdown is underway against protesters, and since July 14, more than 1,500 presenters of petitions have been imprisoned, while many others have been immediately sent back to their city of origin.

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