The 2008 Summer Olympics will punctuate three decades of development and test China's global legitimacy. They've already transformed the way millions of people think and live. Seattleite and Fulbright researcher Daniel Beekman brings you Beijing.
July 24, 2008 6:19 AM
Posted by Daniel Beekman
China's Olympic organizers will set up special protest zones for use during the 2008 Games in Beijing.
Liu Shaowu, security director for Beijing's organizing committee, declared Wednesday plans for protest zones in three public parks: World Park, Purple Bamboo Park and Ritan Park. None lie adjacent to Olympic venues, although all three are located near the city center.
"This will allow people to protest without disrupting the Olympics," Ni Jianping, director of the Shanghai Institute of American Studies, announced. "We're giving people a platform to express their views."
Concerns that protestors and Chinese security forces could clash have swelled in recent weeks.
Human rights, press freedoms and religious-ethnic issues - particulary those involving China's Tibet and Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Regions - remain contenious issues ahead of the 2008 Games (for more information see "International furor, domestic solidarity" and "Protests and counter-protests" on Blogging Beijing).
China's ties with oil-rich and war-torn Sudan have also come under fire.
Hoping to shield the Olympics from terrorism and dissent, organizers have brought Beijing under strict control. Subway sniffing dogs, highway checkpoints and random visa inspectations are among the security measures now in effect.
Ni and Susan Brownell, an American expert on the politics and culture of Chinese sport, urged leaders here to consider Olympic protest zones.
Supporters of the plan say organizers have taken a meaningful step, opening the city and China's government to criticism. Detractors and realists, Brownell included, contend that Beijing will use the zones to isolate and monitor disruptive activities during the Games.
"It was about placating the West. They were really concerned about social order," Brownell, an anthropologist from the University of Missouri-St. Louis, told the Associated Press.
(For more perspective from Brownell, see "Beijing 2008 Q&A: Dr. Susan Brownell" on Blogging Beijing.)
Addressing reporters at a press conference, Liu revealed that groups wishing to protest would be required to apply and receive permission from local officials first. The Olympics begin in roughly two weeks.
Protest zones were adopted for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, but little used.
Western press coverage of ethnic violence in Tibet this March, and demonstrations against China's global Olympic torch relay in Paris and London this April, sparked patriotic counter-demonstrations and xenophobic outrage among Chinese from Guangdong to Beijing.
Fengtai District's World Park is three miles from the Olympic softball field; Purple Bamboo Park is two bus stops south of the Beijing Institute of Technology's Olympic volleyball venue.
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