With the opening of the 2008 Olympic Games just a week away all eyes are turned towards Beijing in what is becoming unwanted attention for the government. Eager to impress the hundreds of nations participating, China has been making improvements to the capital city for a number of years. From building facilities to house the games and limiting car travel to ease pollution, the Chinese government has been made several adjustments to make Beijing as visitor friendly as possible in time for the August 8th opening. Unfortunately, it looks like China may be going a bit too far to mask some of their existing problems.
The communist country already faces criticism for their extreme censorship of the media, internet and their own people so becoming the epicenter for sports entertainment for the next several weeks is not helping their case. Initially, members of the media were told they would enjoy uncensored internet access while reporting on the Olympics leaving the world under the impression that perhaps China was finally opening up to some well-deserved criticism. Instead, reporters have been disappointed to find that although they can access the internet, a number of sites addressing human rights grievances have been blocked. A report from the BBC also notes that Chinese citizens are being detained, without trial, for showing opposition to the government’s response to the recent earthquakes that took thousands of lives including many children. Critics abound since the quake and subsequent collapse of several school buildings, questioning whether school buildings were ever up to standard or if more could have been done to prevent the deaths.
China appears to be avoiding these topics through simple censorship of any site that may spark a controversial conversation. In spite of their greatest hopes that hosting the World’s games would change their reputation, many are already frustrated and discouraged by their way of turning a blind eye. Additionally, groups like Amnesty International are now pressing even harder, reminding the world of promises China made during their bid for the Olympics in 2001 to improve conditions for all people in time for the start of the games. With one week left, it looks like those promises are pretty empty.