The Chinese regime announced that it would maintain its censorship of overseas Web sites for journalists covering the Beijing Olympics, thereby reneging on earlier promises to allow unfiltered Internet access for news media. Spokespeople for the regime cited Falun Gong Web sites in particular as being among the censored sites.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is believed to have agreed to the Chinese regime's decision, despite IOC head Jacques Rogge's claims earlier this month that "there will be no censorship on the Internet."
IOC press commission chairman Kevan Gosper confirmed the news: "I have also been advised that some of the IOC officials had negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked," he said. "I am disappointed the access is not wider."
Singling Out Falun Gong
The regime cited Falun Gong Web sites in particular as targets of censorship. A spokesperson for the regime's foreign ministry, Liu Jianchao, confirmed in a press conference on Tuesday that Web sites related to Falun Gong were blocked, and went on to repeat Communist Party propaganda about the practice.
Falun Gong is a spiritual and meditation practice that was introduced in China in 1992 and is practiced around the world. The practice was banned in 1999 by the Chinese communist regime, and thousands of its adherents have been subject to human rights violations since then.
The Falun Dafa Information Center (FDI), a New York-based organization, reported on July 29 that a 46-year old woman had been tortured to death for practicing Falun Gong. FDI has also documented close to 8,100 cases of Falun Gong practitioners who have been arrested since December 2007.
FDI spokesperson Erping Zhang said, “Falun Gong adherents pose no threat whatsoever to the games. The Olympics are being taken as an excuse to put them behind bars for years.”
Media Restrictions ‘Suffocating’
AFP quoted an IOC spokesperson on Wednesday as saying that other sites were blocked as well. On Tuesday, journalists and reporters had complained that they were not able to access the Web site of Amnesty International, which had just published a report highly critical of China's human rights record.
The Associated Press reported that there was no access to Amnesty International and Tibet sites from the Main Press Center, expected to host close to 5,000 journalists when the games begin on Aug. 8. Journalists stationed in China also complained about the slow speed of the Internet.
Broadcasters have already been irate at the restrictions over coverage. Scott Moore, executive producer for CBC in Canada, called the security "suffocating." Alex Gilady, who is Israel's IOC representative and senior vice president for NBC Sports, has been pushing the regime to allow greater coverage as well.
New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV), an independent New York-based television station, has been blocked from transmitting into China since early July. Eutelsat is believed to have blocked NTDTV in exchange for better business opportunities with the Chinese regime.
Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, who has been to China several times over a 30-year period, was one of many who were highly critical of the IOC giving the games to China: "There is so much money being made that the IOC has just turned a blind eye," Wallechinsky said in an interview with AP. "You know, the Communist Party wants to control everything."