swifter, higher, crueler March 1, 2008Posted by KG in econ, environment, international, media, news, politics, religion.
Tags: 2008 olympics, beijing, blogs, censorship, china, communist party, dissent, free speech, freedom, human rights, human rights watch, independent media, ioc, john kerry, journalism, press
photo by flickr user H@r@ld used under a creative commons license
Given China’s promises, over the past five years politicians, activists, and many reporters have created a meta-narrative for the Beijing Olympics: With prestige on the line, and the international press descending on Beijing, China simply would have to improve. The Olympics offers China “an enormous opportunity to change world perceptions and implement significant reforms,” said John Kerry after Beijing won the bid.
Yet, since obtaining the Games, China’s human rights record has actually regressed. Human Rights Watch recently concluded that “legal reforms [have] stalled,” Chinese officials have stepped up their censorship of online forums, and authorities have targeted the “network of lawyers, legal academics, rights activists, and journalists…which aims to pursue social justice and constitutional rights.” “Instead of pre-Olympic ‘Beijing spring’ of greater freedom and tolerance of dissent, we are seeing the gagging of dissidents, a crackdown on activists, and attempts to block independent media coverage,” announced Brad Adam, head of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, a conclusion echoed by a recent Amnesty International assessment of China. Meanwhile, as a Financial Times report revealed, the Communist party has tightened its grip on Chinese politics by co-opting more entrepreneurs into the Party and taking over greater swathes of government bureaucracy.
Even the Olympic pledge of press freedom has not been met. Beijing has imposed a law restricting foreign news agencies working in China and also tightened control of the domestic press by launching a crackdown on “false” news and shuttering some 18,000 blogs and websites since April. Local journos who don’t get the message wind up in worse shape then Judith Miller: In August, Chinese reporters interviewing people in a province where a bridge collapsed were attacked by plainclothes thugs, who kicked and punched the journalists.