Posts Tagged ‘liberty’

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Me New China?

2008 August 7

This week, the BBC’s Panorama programme looked at China’s promise to let Western journalists report freely from inside the country in the build-up to the Olympic Games. Reporter John Sweeney followed the Olympic torch as it made its way through China. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/panorama/7533753.stm

He found that there were signs of China’s new economic boom in cities like Shanghai. China has pulled 300 millions out of economic poverty. The Chinese are rightly proud to be hosting the Olympics. But he also found that China was not showing these signs of openness when he tried to speak to those campaigning for democracy and human rights.

He found problems asking questions not about only recent events like the earthquake, but also about the Tienanmen Square massacre in 1989. He spoke to former para-athlete Fang Zheng. In an Internet search inside China, the site said Fang had lost his legs in a traffic accident. Panorama went to interview Fang, accompanied by their state minder. Fang said that he actually lost his legs at Tienanmen Square. A tank chased him as he tried to escape the crack-down, crushing his legs. The minder then stopped the interview, claiming Tienanmen was still part of the “sensitive history of China”. Fang was disqualified from the Olympics because of the sensitivity on how he lost his legs.

China was initially open during the recent earthquake. But When Panorama visited the quake-hit area two weeks later, a phone call to the Beijing appointed minder questioned the validity of the trip. The minder also stopped local people speaking about corruption and poor building construction. To one grieving mother the minder said her talking to Panorama “won’t be good for the country, particularly before the Olympics.”

Villagers of Tai Shi, had been trying to oust the local party boss since 2005. They accuse him of corruption and stealing land. Police had earlier broken up a demonstration. When trying to speak to them the Panorama team were followed. They heard about Guo Feixiong, a legal activist, who was arrested, beaten and convicted of writing subversive literature. They gave the minder the slip to speak with his wife. He is still in Guangzhou prison, where his wife says he is tortured.

Amnesty International too criticise China’s record. They say that the full media freedom in China that was promised has still not been honoured. http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=17848

They highlight the case of Shi Tao, serving ten years for sending an e-mail about media restrictions to a foreign website. Amnesty International say that unblocking media access while keeping the Chinese people’s freedom locked down “simply doesn’t respect basic standards of free speech”.

One site still blocked is one of Amnesty International’s own. It was set up to encourage debate about China’s human rights record: http://www.thechinadebate.org

Amnesty International is campaigning against the “Great Firewall of China”, blocking and filtering Internet content. They say this is set up with the aid of Western-provided technology from IT companies like Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft.

Worldaudit currently rank China in the middle of their “fourth division” at 120th of 150 world countries in their democracy audit: http://www.worldaudit.org/democracy.htm