(by Josiah Ryan, CNSNews.com) – The Communist Chinese government has restricted freedom of speech more than usual and arrested many protesters since the start of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, an expert and a member of a human rights organizations told CNSNews.com on Thursday.
John Ray, a correspondent for Britain’s Independent Television News, reported that he was dragged off by Chinese authorities while trying to a photograph a “Free Tibet” protest near the Olympic park in Beijing last week.
Ray later escaped, but the fate of other protesters who were arrested remains unknown.
Experts told CNSNews.com that that Ray’s experience was only an example of the kind of suppression that has occurred in China during the Olympic Games.
“The human rights situation is much worse than it was a month before the games began,” John Tkacik, a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, told CNSNews.com. “People used to be able to silently stand at government offices with petitions and protest against various government transgressions, but now they have all been chased away and some put in prison.”
“Beijing has been put under very strict supervision,” said Tkacik. “The Olympics has been a real setback for any freedom of expression, speech and assembly in Beijing.”
There are about 40 cases of Chinese who have been arrested for protesting during the games so far, and it is unknown how many reporters have been detained, Sophie Richardson, director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, told CNSNews.com.
The fate of the arrested protesters is also unknown, and nothing apparently is known about their whereabouts, said Richardson.
“We don’t know what their fate has been,” she said. “Several have been detained and otherwise prevented from communicating with the people they normally communicate with.”
Furthermore, there has been no opportunity for protesters to legally voice their dissent, said Richardson.
“The opportunity for protesters to demonstrate in a peaceful manner has been nearly nonexistent, because protest zones miles from the games and permits, which are needed for a legal protest, have not been permitted,” said Richardson. “But none of the people who applied for permits got them, and several of them have been arrested instead.”
China’s actions against protesters and reporters occurred despite the guarantees of Jacques Rogge the International Olympic Committee president, who said that China would allow the free flow of information during the Olympics.
“For the first time, foreign media will be able to report freely and publish their work freely in China,” Rogge told Agence France-Presse in July.
Before the beginning of the games, the free-speech advocacy group Reporters Without Borders estimated that there were roughly 100 dissidents imprisoned for violating Chinese censorship laws.
Both Richardson and Tkacik said that number has almost certainly risen during the games.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., did not return phone calls from CNSNews.com for comment on this story by press time.
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1. For what reason was John Ray, news correspondent for Britain’s Independent TV News, arrested in Beijing last week?
2. What did John Tkacik of the Heritage Foundation say about freedom of speech in China and the olympics?
3. What did Sophie Richardson of Human Rights Watch say about the ability for people to voice their dissent of government policies during the Olympic Games?
4. The International Olympic Committee, knowing that China is a repressive Communist state, chose it to host the Olympics. What assurances did Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge given about free press and speech in China?
5. How does this article differ from TV news reports on the Olympics?
ON CHINA AND THE OLYMPICS (from FreedomHouse.org):
Beijing was selected to host the summer Olympics in 2008 despite its dismal human rights record. Although China is a rising global economic power, the government continues to restrict even the most basic political rights and civil liberties of Chinese citizens. Chinese citizens have no say in their leadership, the judiciary is not independent, and freedom of speech, association, and religion are all severely restricted.
Five Things You Should Know about the Beijing Olympics
Ten Things You Should Know about China
Watch a video of John Ray’s arrest here.
Read an evaluation of freedom of expression in China from Reporters Without Borders at rsf.org.