Monday, June 02, 2008
New York Times
China Lists Do’s and Don’ts for Olympics-Bound Foreigners
By KEITH BRADSHER
Published: June 3, 2008
HONG KONG — Do not bring any printed materials critical of China. Do not plan on holding any rallies or demonstrations in China. Do not think that you are guaranteed an entry visa even if you hold tickets to an Olympic event. And do not even think about smuggling opium into China.
That is some of the eclectic advice issued by the Beijing Organizing Committee on Monday, in a document posing 57 questions that foreign visitors to the Olympic Games in August might have: “Does China have any regulation against insults to the flag or national emblems?“ “After eating or drinking at restaurants or hotels, if you have diarrhea or vomiting symptoms, how do you lodge a complaint?”
The advisory to foreigners, posted on the committee’s Web site, but only in Chinese, provides answers for each question in a deadpan style (burning or soiling the Chinese flag or emblems is a criminal offense; food poisoning symptoms are to be reported to the local medical health department). Some of the rules, like a ban on religious or political banners or slogans at Olympic sites, appear aimed at preventing protests of China’s crackdown in Tibet this spring and other Chinese policies.
The Beijing Organizing Committee took pains at the start of the document to say that all the answers are based on existing Chinese regulations. The International Olympic Committee had no immediate response on Monday to the rules. Its position on freedom of expression issues as they relate to the Olympics is not entirely clear.
“A person’s ability to express his or her opinion is a basic human right and as such does not need to have a specific clause in the Olympic Charter because its place is implicit,” said Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, at a meeting in Beijing in April.
But Mr. Rogge also pointed out then that the International Olympic Committee has had a rule for more than half a century that, “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or areas.”
The advisory issued on Monday by the Beijing Organizing Committee includes a ban on bringing into China, “anything detrimental to China’s politics, economy, culture or moral standards, including printed material, film negatives, photos, records, movies, tape recordings, videotapes, optical discs and other items.” All rallies, demonstrations and marches, at athletic venues or anywhere else, are also banned during the Games unless approved in advance by public security agencies – a longstanding policy in China even when there are no Games or other big events being held.
China promised in 2001, before being awarded the Olympics, that it would improve its human rights record. But China and the International Olympic Committee have never released the text of their contract for the Olympic Games, in contrast with other cities that have been host to the event in recent years.
Nicholas Bequelin, the Hong Kong-based China researcher for Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group, said that China had chosen a very broad interpretation of the Olympic restriction on political and religious activity. “It is a slippery slope, and the Games in Beijing are testing the limit,” he said.
Jill Savitt, the executive director of Dream For Darfur, a group that wants China to put more pressure on the government of Sudan to bring peace to the Darfur region in western Sudan, said that the group had been considering ways to protest in Beijing during the Olympics. But Dream for Darfur was already reconsidering before the issuance of the latest advisory.
The group had been mulling tactics like having groups of visitors to the Games wear green armbands or green shirts, as green is associated with Sudan, Ms. Savitt said.
But the earthquake two weeks ago in Sichuan province, together with the controversy over sometimes violent protests by Tibet supporters during the Olympic torch relay, has prompted Dream for Darfur to reassess its plans and no decision has been made, she said.