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Olympics protesters must apply days in advance

Anyone interested in demonstrating at one of Beijing's recently approved protest sites will need to apply five days in advance, the security chief for the Olympic organizing committee said Sunday.

Anyone interested in demonstrating at one of Beijing's recently approved protest sites will need to apply five days in advance, the security chief for the Olympic organizing committee said Sunday.

Liu Shaowu, security chief for the Beijing organizing committee, outlined the requirements on the official Olympics news website Saturday, but he also stressed the country's outright ban against gatherings deemed "harmful" to national interests.

"Assembling to march and protest is a citizen's right. But it must be stressed that when exercising this right, citizens must respect and not harm others' freedoms and rights and must not harm national, social and collective interests," Liu said in the statement.

The application process differs for foreigners and locals who wish to rally at one of the three officially approved protest sites near far-flung sporting venues, which were announced by Liu at a news conference in Beijing on July 23.

Chinese citizens are required to submit a written application to police, while foreigners must submit an application to the border entry-exit administration.

Liu said that potential protesters would receive a decision from Chinese authorities at least two days prior to the planned protest date. He added that if the applicant doesn't hear from police, that can also be taken as approval.

China has historically been opposed to protesting. But in the face of mounting criticism surrounding an inability to demonstrate at the Summer Games, the Chinese government conceded the three approved sites in public parks.

Groups face restrictions

Some foreign groups, such as the Committee to Protect Journalists, have been prevented or deterred from coming to Beijing due to tightened visa checks, although the organization Dream for Darfur said its visa application was pending.

The restrictions on demonstrations come after International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge was accused on Saturday of backtracking on promises for free and open media access during the Games.

Olympics organizers have unblocked some websites, but journalists were still denied access to others less than a week before the opening ceremony.

Journalists arriving in Beijing were upset earlier this week that they were denied access to sites such as Amnesty International, which has accused China of failing to live up to its promise to improve human rights.

Other sites dealing with Tibet, Tiananmen Square or the spiritual group Falun Gong were also blocked in the work rooms for journalists covering the Aug. 8-24 Olympics.

Large broadcast organizations, such as NBC, have also faced restrictions from organizers on live coverage around the city despite paying hundreds of millions of dollars to air the games.

With files from the Associated Press