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Friday, May 04, 2007

Olympic Pressure on China

Zissis looks at China's progress report ahead of the Olympics.

Excerpt - Council of Foreign Relations by Carin Zissis: After winning the bid to host the Games, China released an “action plan” with a series of commitments related to economic and social development, environmental protection, and governance. Beijing pledged in its Olympics strategy “to be open in every aspect to the rest of the country and the whole world.” But Minxin Pei, director of the China Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, calls Beijing’s commitments “vague.” He says “the interpretation of such pledges is contentious,” with a divergence of opinion about what they mean inside and outside China. While activists and critics of China’s Communist Party may look for concrete progress on development and human rights, the “kind of measures the government has taken regarding the Olympics are more related to the appearance of Beijing as a nice, livable city,” says Pei...

Urban improvements have lead to more extreme measures as well: Human Rights Watch estimates that some three hundred thousand people face relocation because of Olympics-related beautification projects....

Pei suggests Beijing may moderate its Sudan policy to a slight degree, “but if the level of shrillness is too high, then nothing will be accomplished.” He believes increased criticism from abroad will only serve to unite the Chinese government and the people. But Princeton N. Lyman, a CFR adjunct senior fellow and Africa expert, says Beijing is watching U.S. public opinion on how it handles Khartoum. “As they get closer to the Olympics they will try to demonstrate their cooperation more and more on Sudan.”...

Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China, says, “[I]t is still unclear what kind of access journalists will have to explore sensitive issues such as the situation of internal migrants, ethnic minorities, and rural residents.” She points out that several restrictions remain in place, including bans on interviewing members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement or other minority groups; mandatory visas to enter autonomous regions (such as Tibet); and limits on reporting in Tiananmen Square....

“For foreign journalists, the worst that can happen to them is they can throw them out of the country. Domestic journalists get thrown in jail,” says Dan Southerland, a vice president at Radio Free Asia and a former Asia correspondent....

The Olympics have also shown a spotlight on China's environmental record, amid recent reports (Independent) that it will surpass the United States this year as the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitter. (more)

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