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 Whistleblowers Need Protection


China is called out on protest crackdown

By Kristi Heim, Seattle Times
August 15, 2008

BEIJING - A British journalist watching a demonstration was dragged away and detained by police, the latest in clashes over media coverage in Beijing that boiled over into a confrontation with Olympic officials Thursday.

John Ray of Britain's Independent Television News was covering a demonstration by Students for a Free Tibet on Wednesday near the Olympic Green when he was wrestled to the ground by police, dragged and shoved into a police van, according to witnesses.

Six foreign demonstrators had chained themselves together and unfurled banners at the entrance to a park for China's ethnic minority groups. Security agents quickly moved to arrest them. Like many other small protests since the games began, this one was done without approval.

The next morning, reporters grilled officials from the IOC and Beijing Organizing Committee about China's broken promises on human rights and press freedoms.

A Fox News Radio reporter began by reading off a list of Chinese activists recently arrested, including the case of Ji Sizun, who is being detained after he applied to demonstrate legally in one of the designated protest zones established for the Olympics, according to Human Rights Watch.

Ji, 58, went to a police station in Beijing on Aug. 8 for a permit to hold a protest, stating he would call for greater participation of Chinese citizens in the political process, and denounce official corruption and abuses of power. He was arrested on Monday when he returned to check on his application status.

At the news conference, a television reporter from Britain's Channel 4 news asked: "The Chinese government lied through its teeth about human rights. Isn't the IOC ashamed?"

Giselle Davies, the IOC director of communications, replied: "There was certainly some hope and aspirations made in 2001 that the Games would have a positive impact on the wider social framework, and I think we have to note that there have been enormous steps forward in numbers of areas."

Wang Wei, the executive vice president of the Beijing Organizing Committee, agreed, adding that "a few people come here to be critical, to dig into small details, to find fault. That does not mean we are not fulfilling our promise."

Ray told journalists that police accused him of trying to unfurl a Tibetan flag. He said he was only reporting on the demonstration. Police released him after half an hour.

On July 23, Liu Shaowu, the security director for the Beijing Organizing Committee, announced the creation of three protest zones in Beijing parks. He told reporters that "people or protesters who want to express their personal opinions can go to do so" in line with "common practice in other countries."

Despite the pledge, no "approved" protest has been allowed to take place, said Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch.

"The protest application process clearly isn't about giving people greater freedom of expression, but making it easier for the police to suppress it," she said.

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