Before the Winter Olympics, Beijing moves to quell disagreements

Chinese authorities have detained activists in their homes and sent others to prison. The censors closed the social media accounts of famous critics. Officials have warned the Olympians that the protest could be prosecuted.

As athletes, journalists and other participants arrive at the Winter Olympics, which begin Friday, they are faced with some of the strictest security measures ever imposed at a sporting event. international sport. Many of them are precautionary measures against Covid-19, but others reflect the Chinese government’s growing intolerance of dissent and criticism.

Hu Jia, a prominent human rights activist, said police in Beijing are locking him up in his apartment. In In January, he took to Twitter to criticize state security officers to interrogate, harass and detain critics ahead of the Winter Olympics. Since then, the police visited him four times in eight days.

“They said that if I didn’t stay silent, my right to visit my mother might be affected,” he said, adding that authorities are determined to quell any public criticism of the Online Game.

With authorities tightening their grip on Chinese society as a whole, a key question is whether any Olympic participants, including athletes, will be willing or able to step up. on issues that the government considers objectionable. Activists and human rights groups have accused the party of undermining civil liberties in Hong Kong, suppressing ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, and censoring Peng Shuai, a top tennis player has almost disappeared from public view after accusing a senior Chinese leader of sexual assault.

Teng Biao, a Chinese lawyer who was detained and disenfranchised during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, said he believes visiting athletes have a “responsibility to say something” about the crackdown. increasing in China.

Beijing has made it clear that such behavior can have consequences, even as officials have declared welcome to the incoming athletes.

“Any behavior or statement that goes against the Olympic spirit, especially against China’s laws and regulations, must also be subject to certain punishment,” said Yang Shu, deputy director of the Olympic organizing committee. Beijing, warned in a recent call organized by the Chinese Embassy in Washington.

The crackdown added to an already restrictive atmosphere. The game will take place in three bubbles guarded by workers in hazmat equipment and separated from surrounding cities – and with ordinary citizens. The people inside the bubble must download Chinese Apps Monitor their health and control their movements between locations. The researchers say the software has encryption vulnerabilities that expose users’ personal information.

Olympic events will take place in front of a limited audience of spectators with screens selected by China. Organizers have installed barriers to keep people out of venues such as Beijing’s iconic National Stadium, known as the Bird’s Nest, where the opening ceremony will be held.

“The heavy controls are a ‘way to show that China’s governance model is working’,” said Yaqiu Wang, a senior research fellow at Human Rights Watch.

Under the current Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, Beijing has turned to harsh authoritarian tactics to quell dissent and build national power. For the party, the Olympics are a symbol of the success of China’s political system, and Beijing is not afraid to rein in those who seek to criticize it.

Olympic sponsors, advertisers and contractors warned its employees not to raise sensitive topics, lest it jeopardize companies’ access to the Chinese market. Some national teams have advised athletes not to carry cell phones, but to use them temporarily for fear of being monitored.

Mandie McKeown, CEO of International Tibetan Network, a coalition of Tibetan rights groups helped organize protests in several cities calling for a boycott of the Olympics.

She criticized the International Olympic Committee for not doing more to pressure China to guarantee freedom of expression and other values ​​enshrined in the Olympic Charter. “It was ridiculous,” she said.

The atmosphere was in contrast to that of the 2008 Olympics, when hopes were made to reduce the authoritarian leanings of the Chinese Communist Party. Despite widespread censorship and detention of activists, officials subsequently opened much of the country to reporters and even allocated space to three protest zones – although the registration demonstration proved impossible.

Nothing like that happened during this time.

According to Mr. Teng, human rights lawyer, exile and currently a visiting scholar at the University of Chicago.

“Compared to 2008, the Chinese government has become stronger and more aggressive. It seems they are less concerned with international pressure,” he said in an interview, noting the brazenness of the warnings to foreign athletes.

“They really want to silence the athletes,” he said.

Across the country, authorities have launched a crackdown on those who may speak out while the focus is on China. Human rights groups have pointed to the detention or sentencing of five prominent activists in recent weeks, including Xie Yang, a lawyer who was detained in January in the central city of Trường Sa for the crime of ” inciting subversion” and “fighting and causing trouble. ”

Liang Xiaojun, a lawyer whose license was revoked last month, said police officers visited him in mid-January to warn him that China was entering an “time of Olympic security”. Since then, he said, officials have called him regularly to check on his whereabouts.

Several activists and intellectuals said in interviews that the police tried to silence them by blocking their access to social networks and the internet.

Zhang Yihe, an author and Chinese historian, said that Chinese censors on January 8 banned her from using various functions on the popular social media app WeChat, in a move. attitude that she believes is related to the Olympics. Gao Yu, a veteran journalist and activist, said her WeChat account was also suspended in January. More recently, Gao said, security officials asked her to close her Twitter account.

The Chinese Communist Party “will control people’s speech for the Olympics,” she said, adding, “not even the slightest criticism is allowed.”

Chinese officials have said athletes will be provided with mobile services that will allow them to bypass widespread government censorship that blocks websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google. It is unclear whether authorities will seek to punish Olympic participants for online dissent, like Chinese nationals.

Mr. Teng said that China’s ability to avoid criticism during such a major event signals how strongly China has grown since 2008.

“Beijing has the power – economic and political power – to silence global business, even to be complicit in human rights abuses,” he said. Before the Winter Olympics, Beijing moves to quell disagreements

Fry Electronics Team

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