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Olympic Crackdowns

Who thought it would be a good idea to let a brutal, repressive regime host the Olympics? As the Olympics kick off, we should all take a close look at what passes for "security" in the Chinese world:

The Beijing government, for starters, has denied visas to businessmen, backpackers, and middle-aged tourists holding Olympics tickets.

Moreover, the central government has also ejected long-term foreign residents and canceled) long-planned events involving foreign participants. Chinese citizens have been removed from Beijing, and many of them have been prevented from traveling there. The capital is now guarded by three rings of checkpoints and over 400,000 troops, police, and volunteers. Children cannot fly model planes, real pilots cannot quit or change their jobs, and dissidents have been forced to take "holidays." Spectators at the Games are not permitted to stand up in their seats. The only thing Chinese leaders have not done is declare martial law; but, even if they did, it's not clear that things would be much different than they are at this tense moment. The Games are supposed to be a joyous celebratory event, but the unprecedented clampdown means they have become the "No-Fun Olympics."

... Yet Beijing, in its efforts to ensure absolute security, is considering almost everything a "threat." Paramilitary police, for instance, beat two Japanese journalists in Kashgar and broke their equipment on Monday. That was an indication that the Beijing Olympic organizing committee was not serious late last month when its spokesman expressed regret for police roughing up Hong Kong reporters. The journalists were covering the chaos surrounding the sale of the last batch of Olympics tickets in Beijing and got caught up in events. There will undoubtedly be other occasions in the next few days when members of the press come up against police and other agents of the state, and the reaction of security officials will be telling. So far, it looks as if officials will continue to overreact. And if they do, we will know that Chinese officialdom, despite the supposed liberalizing influence of the Olympics, has not changed much over the years.