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Blogging Beijing

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.

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August 5, 2008 5:05 AM

Weekend news wrap-up

Posted by Daniel Beekman

Blogging Beijing traveled north to Harbin and China's only Korean Autonomous Prefecture over the weekend. Meanwhile, back in Beijing...

On August 1, Chinese president Hu Jintao held a rare press conference for foreign reporters. Hu often speaks with the world press when abroad, but Friday's tete-a-tete was his first here in nearly six years as China's top leader.

Beijing lifted blocks on several long-barred websites Saturday, August 2. Following overnight talks with the International Olympic Committee, China's government agreed to make accessible a number of contentious websites, including those of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and BBC in Chinese. For days now, a confusing debate has raged over what Beijing promised the IOC, in terms of Internet censorship or lack thereof, what the IOC understood and what all the fuss will mean for Olympic coverage.

(Note: All three websites mentioned above were, indeed, accessible via a Beijing coffee shop wireless connection Tuesday morning.)

An official Olympic-themed pin trading center opened Sunday, August 3, in Beijing. According to organizers, four such centers will operate during the 2008 Games.

News from Beijing soured on Monday, when two dozen Beijingers demonstrating against evictions ahead of the Olympics scuffled with police in the city's historic Qianmen district just south of Tiananmen Square. The area is under renovation. High-end retailers like Nike and Starbucks will replace many of Qianmen's traditional alley-neighborhoods.

(Note: For background on Qianmen's transformation, see 'Heart of the city - part two' on Blogging Beijing.)

Also on Monday, superstar American swimmer Michael Phelps touched down in Beijing. Phelps, sporting a new mustache, snuck past hundreds of fans and photographers onto a team bus at Beijing's Terminal 3 airport addition.

(Note: For more on the world's largest flight terminal, see 'T3 - Beijing's dragon-inspired airport' on Blogging Beijing.)

Tuesday dawned hazy in Beijing, between 90 and 110 on the city's pollution index. Organizers here refer to skies under 100 on the index as 'blue.' The Sydney Morning Herald reported Tuesday that Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe will not attend this week's Olympic opening ceremonies, at China's behest.

Headlines sprouted outside of Beijing as well. On Sunday, China's prolonged Olympic torch relay reached Mianyang in Sichuan province, where a devastating earthquake struck May 12. Yesterday, torchbearers jogged round a stadium that only weeks ago hosted thousands of diaster victims.

Today the torch relay arrived in Chengdu, Sichuan's capital. Sichuan is Washington's sister province in China; former governor and Chinese-American lawyer Gary Locke will serve as a Chengdu torchbearer.

Perhaps the weekend's biggest story occurred Monday morning in Kashgar, an ancient oasis city near Afghanistan in China's northwest Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. According to Chinese sources, two assailants in a truck ran down a group of jogging Kashgar policeman, then tossed grenades and slashed at the officers with knives, killing 16. The assailants were arrested, but state media failed to identify them members of the country's Han Chinese majority or Muslim Uyghur minority most numerous in Xinjiang.

(Note: For more on the region, re-visit 'Xinjiang - living snapshots' on Blogging Beijing.)

Elsewhere in the world, Olympic fans have been swindled by an Internet ticketing scam. The families of Olympic athletes in both Australia and New Zealand were among those who fell prey to the bogus website.

More newslinks:

'The Wave: Banned in China?'

'China breaks Olympic promises on rights, media, pollution'

'Olympic Athletes Apprehensive About Beijing Air'

'True or False: China Is Fit to Play Host'

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