China Warns Olympic Athletes about Free Speech : Report

During the Summer Olympics in 2008, officials did not impose significant restrictions on locals and did not warn visiting olympic athletes about speaking out against Beijing, revealing a radically different face of China. However, according to a media report, Chinese officials have cautioned athletes not to speak against the country’s law and have placed local activists under house arrest who the communist party fears will launch protests during the Winter Olympics that will tarnish China’s image.
During the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the Chinese government declared that three parks in the capital had been designated for anyone wishing to protest during the Games. This gesture, as meaningless as it was, feels quaint to contemplate these days. The local police did not grant any protest permits in the end. The demonstrators who took the risk during the Games were apprehended and detained, according to Nikkei Asia.

But the incident is worth recalling if only to contrast it with the build-up to the Beijing Winter Olympics, which begin tomorrow, where organizers warned participants that speaking out of turn may result in their accreditations being revoked, according to the journal.

Yang Shu, the head of the Beijing organizing committee, declared in January that any behavior or statement that goes against the Olympic spirit, particularly against Chinese laws and regulations, will be punished.

According to Nikkei Asia, the transition from local protest parks to “certain punishment” for vocal foreigners is instructive, and not just because it shows how Beijing no longer believes it has to pander to opponents of its human rights record.

The journal also noted that the half-decade between the Summer and Winter Games traces the arc of a much larger story: China’s rising power and desire to display it for all to see.

It occurred after 243 international organizations, including non-governmental organizations, called for action against China last week on human rights concerns ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics, which will begin in the first week of February.

“According to 243 non-governmental groups from across the world, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics will open amid atrocity crimes and other grave human rights violations by the Chinese government. The organizations asked states to join a diplomatic boycott of the Games, which are set to begin on February 4, 2022, and for athletes and sponsors to refuse to legitimize government atrocities “Last week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a statement.