Tuesday, 5 August 2008

broken china?

Dragon
A few days before the Olympics kick off and the UK press are now all in place around Beijing and we are beginning to see other stories reported.

The thought that Chinese people would seize the opportunity for peaceful protests to advance other freedom agendas seems to have been mainly quashed. The added special agents and special representatives are supposed to be already monitoring local people for any signs of political actions. If previous times are anything to go by, then suppressive action can be swift and violent.

It will be interesting to see how other world leaders really treat this. Some parts of China are now so intrinsic to the way that global economics operate (eg manufacture of electronics) that there is a delicate balance which could mean that some leaders choose to look the other way.

Sports bodies claim to make the events apolitical, but there's much to question in a society with such a poor human rights history and use of military pressure to quell dissidents. The Chinese version of the military intervention in Tianamen Square seems to have pretty much erased the whole event.

Quite some time ago I set up an experimental web cam feed from a Beijing hotel to rashbre central. It was supposed to be an inquisitive window into the city but then as a side effect exposed the fog levels. A few weeks ago it mysteriously stopped working and then a week or two later was replaced 'their end' with a link to a Chinese newspaper in English which extolls the positive virtues of the Games.

I still have the link working from an obscure page inside this blog and have noticed increased traffic to it over the last 3-4 weeks as increasing numbers of people are trying to get a glimpse of Beijing. For the whole of China I could only locate about a dozen webcams, so its probably not surprising that traffic levels increased. In its own small way it also illustrates the lock down of news flow from China.

Amnesty International has recently updated its assessment on China and still features key areas around the continuing use of the death penalty; abusive forms of administrative detention; the arbitrary detention, imprisonment, ill-treatment and harassment of human rights defenders, including journalists and lawyers; and the censorship of the internet. Needless to say, Amnesty's site is one of those that has been blocked despite the IOC saying originally that they would not accept Internet blocking during the Games.

Part of the point, I seem to remember, when China was awarded the Games, was to use the prestige and world focus to show positive progress in the way that China operates. Current signs are not very convincing.

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