Monday, 20 October 2008

Spin, intrigue, openness and a (lack of) protests

Just when we thought that the right to protest, a flickering flame tenuously linked to the hope of the Olympic dream and the dodgy old deal-making bastards at the IOC was over, a new wave of hope has poured petrol on the flame of Freedom Of Speech.
SANUR - The Chinese organizers of the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou said Monday protests would be allowed "in certain areas" during the event, but were
reluctant to provide details. They also indicated they would follow the policy China adopted for the Beijing Olympics in allowing foreign reporters greater freedoms to do their jobs, although the same rights do not extend to domestic journalists. "Yes, we will allow protests to take place in certain areas. We have planned for this," said Guangzhou government vice-secretary general Gu Shiyang. But Gu, speaking on behalf of the city's vice mayor Xu Ruisheng who had poor English, refused to elaborate when pressed by AFP, becoming increasingly irritated. "We are not so interested in this question, we are very busy with organizing the Games, not about protests," he said on the sidelines of the inaugural Asian Beach Games in Bali. "We are interested in hosting one of the best Games ever. We are not holding the Games for protesters, we are holding the Games for Asia."

And after the raging success of the Olympic protest model, in which the Chinese people displayed their incredibly rabid thirst for harmony by not staging a single protest, what better way for China to again prove to their ever decreasing band of doubters that China is a tolerant, peaceful nation, where peaceful protests are tolerated if they do not exist?

In a curious Orwellian twist, when I googled "China" news just before writing this post, the next entry that came up was:
China extends Olympic freedoms for foreign reporters
CHINA HAS extended rules introduced for the Olympic Games allowing foreign reporters to move and interview people freely throughout the country. The move, which came at the 11th hour, means that foreign journalists will still be able to interview people without seeking official permission and will be permitted to travel in areas outside of the cities in which they are accredited.
However, there are two important caveats:
1) The decision to extend the freedoms for foreign journalists is a sign of growing openness in China, but there were no breakthroughs on freedoms for domestic media.
2) Reporters will still have to get permission from local authorities to gain access to the sensitive Himalayan region of Tibet.
And possibly even more fascinating was this article, discussing the possible imminent political demise of Wen Jiabao:

CHINA'S most popular politician, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, has become a target for Communist Party hardliners and could be forced from office, according to an
influential magazine in Hong Kong.
Its report is a rare insight into the struggle over the future of China between political reformers and guardians of the police state. The Prime Minister's popularity rose this year as he comforted the victims of the earthquake in Sichuan province, visited people caught up in disastrous snowstorms and defended China's unyielding policy on Tibet. A 66-year-old known as "Grandpa", he has his own page on Facebook, the social networking website seen by millions. Rivalries inside the party have broken out behind the facade of unity erected for the Olympic Games, said Kaifang (Open), the monthly magazine known for its political sources inside China and its publication of information banned in the media.
It said hardliners in the party's propaganda department and at the People's Daily
newspaper had orchestrated a campaign of abuse directed at Mr Wen's supposed
support for universal values such as democracy and human rights. "China's ship of reform is on the rocks and risks sinking," Kaifang said in its analysis. "The party needs to find a scapegoat."
Last week, important land reforms were put on hold. Mr Wen had also been passed over for the job of heading a prestigious committee, the magazine said. It listed several press attacks, which, as is often the case in Chinese politics, did not identify their victim but left no doubt among those in the know as to who it was.
The most prominent critic was Chen Kuiyuan, vice-chairman of the Chinese People's
Political Consultative Conference, a rubber-stamp body whose title sums up everything it is not. "Some in China want to dance to the West's tune," Mr Chen wrote. The People's Daily of September 10 printed a column headlined "How to see through the theory of so-called universal values".
Today, the Prime Minister is seen by many ordinary Chinese as a friendly face at the apex of power. He has been compared to the veteran revolutionary Zhou Enlai, who is claimed to have moderated the worst crimes of Maoism.

I am quite interested to see the reaction from the people if he steps down, though I guess it will be accepted with little complaint.

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