China's promises to tolerate peaceful protests during the Beijing Olympics are coming into question over news that all applications to demonstrate have been quashed and some applicants are being punished.
A growing rift was evident between Beijing Games organizers and the International Olympic Committee as a news conference Wednesday turned tense with questions about China's failure to approve dozens of protest requests.
In July, Chinese authorities said protests would be allowed in three city parks far from Games venues, a concession apparently aimed at mitigating criticism and avoiding disruption of the games.
Applications must be filed five days in advance and protests must not harm "national, social and collective interests." Authorities are supposed to respond at least 48 hours before the rally's planned time.
On Monday, state media revealed that authorities had not approved any of 77 applications they received from 149 people.
The official Xinhua news agency said 74 of the applications were withdrawn after officials addressed the complainants' problems, two were suspended for not providing sufficient information and one was rejected because it violated anti-demonstration laws.
Protest requests resolved, China says
Beijing Olympic organizing committee spokesman Wang Wei defended the decisions, saying all the protesters' problems had been resolved. No details were available.
"We were quite pleased to hear that many of the 77 cases were actually resolved," Wei said through a translator Wednesday.
Wei said that in Chinese culture, the goal is to find resolution. "Chinese culture always emphasizes harmony."
But Li Guizhi said there was no resolution found in her case. She said police forced her to stay away from the Games when she wanted to publicly question police on why her son's murderer was released.
"They don't resolve anything," Li said through a translator. "That's a total lie."
2 seniors punished after protest application
Chinese authorities have ordered two septuagenarian women to spend a year in a labour camp after applying to protest during the Olympics, a relative said Wednesday.
Wu Dianyuan, 79, and her neighbour Wang Xiuying, 77, repeatedly attempted to apply for permission to hold a protest at one of the three designated demonstration areas during the Olympics, which end Sunday. The two were protesting being forced from their homes.
International Olympic Committee spokeswoman Giselle Davies suggested that the sporting organization expected more from China.
"We continue to ask for as much transparency on this as possible, and we would of course welcome that the [protest] areas are genuinely used," Davies said.
Though no sanctioned protests have taken place in designated areas, a few foreign demonstrators managed to get through security. In one instance, several protesters hung a "Free Tibet" banner outside the headquarters of the state broadcaster.
More than a dozen foreign activists have been detained in Beijing this month for launching protests, with most quickly deported.
In the latest arrests, five U.S. blogger-activists who unfurled a pro-Tibet banner near an Olympics venue, as well as a U.S. graffiti artist who planned to use laser beams to flash a similar message on Beijing buildings, were detained by Chinese officials Tuesday, the group Students for a Free Tibet said.