China ‘unblocks’ some web addresses

“In China, Internet access is fully open.” — Sun Weide, spokesman for the Beijing Olympic Games Organising Committee (BOGOC).

Riiight.

News today that China has unblocked some web addresses following a protest from the International Olympic Committee. It’s not clear whether these sites have been unblocked to everyone or only for the journalists reporting on the event.

Amnesty International, bbc.com/chinese, the Chinese Wikipedia and similar sites are reportedly among those unblocked, although CNN reports that some of these sites, while unblocked, were still “unavailable” at times.

China, stop the act already. And the IOC, well, you’re just a useless, shameful bunch of bastards who don’t dare to challenge BOGOC on this issue.

International journalists at Olympics find net access censored

Web access for international journalists already in Beijing to cover the Olympic Games is being censored, according to media reports.

In addition to sites relating to the Falungong spiritual movement, which is banned in China, some international news websites, as well as websites of human rights organisations, are blocked.

And, guess what? The IOC is backing China on this. IOC press commission chairman Kevan Gosper contradicts his own statement in the same interview when speaking to the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong: “There will be full, open and free internet access during Games time to allow journalists to report on the Olympics… but […] some of the IOC officials had negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked.”

“Full, open and free internet access” that sees “some sensitive sites blocked”?

The BBC quotes a Beijing Olympic Games Organising Committee spokesman, Sun Weide, as saying that China will provide “sufficient and convenient” net access for scribes. Why is the IOC allowing this to happen? What happened to all those empty promises?

The IOC is complicit with the Beijing government in this. Why does the IOC continue to claim otherwise?

Amnesty’s report about China

An Amnesty report about China says that human rights have gotten worse thanks to the upcoming Olympics, including increased use of “re-education through labour”.

A day later, China rejected the report, accusing Amnesty of viewing it with “tinted glasses”. Liu Jianchao at the foreign ministry in Beijing said Amnesty should “see China in a fair and objective way, and do something more constructive.”

And yet, a day after that Chinese retort, new news out of Sichuan province, which was hard hit by an earthquake earlier this year: a Chinese teacher who took photos of collapsed school buildings and put them up on the Internet has been detained, and, you guessed it, sent for “re-education through labour”.

I don’t think we can ever expect an improvement in the country unless something drastic happens.

Zhongguo Taibei? So much for not politicising the Olympics, China.

Well, so much for not politicising the upcoming Beijing Olympics. Apparently, Chinese officials want to refer to Taiwan’s Olympic delegation as “中国台北” (“Taipei China”, not dissimilar to “Hong Kong, China”), instead of the current IOC standard “中华台北” (Chinese Taipei) that has been in use since 1989.

The former — Zhongguo Taibei — implies that the island belongs to the People’s Republic, which is the line the PRC takes, while the latter — Zhonghua Taibei — refers to an ambiguous Chinese state. The Republic of China, as Taiwan calls itself, has participated in the Olympics as Chinese Taipei since 1984. Since 1989, both sides have agreed to call the island’s sportsmen and women representatives of Zhonghua Taibei.

Two weeks ago, a Chinese official sparked outrage in Taiwan — where lawmakers have threatened to boycott the Games — by saying that the use of both terms had equal validity; effectively that “Chinese Taipei” and “Taipei, China” were interchangeable. Earlier this week, a spokesman for the mainland’s Taiwan Affairs Office said that the PRC took the 1989 accord to mean that while Chinese Taipei was to be used in all official areas, “Taipei, China” could be used otherwise.

And only today has the issue begun to cool slightly after an official PRC news outlet, the China News Services, began referring (link in simplified Chinese)1 to the island’s delegation as being from “Zhonghua Taibei” — Chinese Taipei — after earlier (link in simplified Chinese)2 referring to it as “Zhongguo Taibei”.

Really now. The Games are supposedly meant to be non-political…so why go against the agreement?

1 The headline reads: “中华台北队高雄训练中心探营:有多位大陆教练”, with an approximate translation being “Scouting of Chinese Taipei team’s training centre in Kaohsiung reveals many mainland coaches”.
2 This headline, from eight days prior, reads: “马英九30日将为中国台北奥运代表团授旗壮行”, which roughly means “Ma Ying-jeou (President of Taiwan) to present Olympic flag to Zhongguo Taibei delegation”.

Almost 15,000 dead in China quake: Xinhua

Breaking NewsAs of 1130 UTC: Nearly 15,000 people are now known to have died.

2355 UTC: CNN reports that pandas at the Wolong reserve are safe.

1245 UTC: 18,000 or more buried alive in one town alone. A panda sanctuary close to the epicentre has not yet been contacted and there are fears for the panda population, as well as staff and tourists — including foreigners, with at least 15 British tourists involved, the BBC reports.

0925 UTC: The death toll is now 11,922, according to CNN.

2330 UTC: As of 2200 UTC, Xinhua was reporting at least 10,000 deaths in Sichuan Province.

1505 UTC: Xinhua now reporting a toll of 7,651. Hundreds still trapped in collapsed buildings — including two chemical plants.

1500 UTC: Xinhua is now reporting that the death toll is at least 7,000. 50 bodies have been pulled from the earlier-mentioned collapsed school building.

1330 UTC: China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reports that 3,000 to 5,000 people are feared dead in a single county — Beichuan — alone following a Mw 7.8 earthquake that hit earlier today.

107 are already confirmed dead and 900 are trapped in a collapsed school building. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and military forces are already on their way to the affected areas. The quake was felt as far away as Beijing (950 miles from epicentre) and Bangkok, Thailand.

China’s rapid response to this disaster is in direct and stark contrast to that of the military junta in Burma, who continue to control aid into the country there following Cyclone Nargis.

Olympics, media bias and the U.S. race

Apologies for the lack of posts recently. Here’s a few stories that have caught my eye in the past few days:

A journalistic boycott of the Olympic Games?

France Televisions’ director of sports said French public TV could boycott coverage of the Beijing Olympics if China bans the broadcast of footage from demonstrations.

“For the time being, we have no intention of boycotting the games,” Daniel Bilalian told RTL radio.

“But if they are censored or sanitized in any way by the Chinese authorities and the IOC [International Olympic Committee] accepts this — which I would very much doubt — this would obviously call into question our stance,” he said.

“At that time, the president of France Televisions, would, without a doubt I believe, decide not to cover the Olympic Games.”

Definitely a good idea if China continues on its current path. I would support any decision to boycott the Games from a journalistic point of view. Let’s hope the government in Beijing will not interfere with pictures coming out of the Games but if it does it would be unforgivable. You’re already censoring your citizens. You have no right to censor the world. China’s journalists are also no doubt being forced to publicly condemn western media for alleged media bias in reporting about Tibet. Also consider that China expelled all foreign scribes from the province.

This has all been organised — planned and organised — by Beijing. And they’re feeding all these twisted facts (if you can even call them that) via its media to its citizens (both at home and abroad) — who’ve now, in one of the more ridiculous moves I’ve seen, set up a site criticising the American broadcaster CNN called anti-cnn.com — I refuse to link it. The site accuses CNN and the BBC of being “Western Goebbels’ Nazi media”. How ridiculous.

On a brighter note, new research suggests that not only is Senator Barack Obama related to Vice President Dick Cheney, he’s also related to the President himself as well as former wartime British leader Sir Winston Churchill. This makes him indirectly related to Republican rival Senator John McCain, who’s distantly related to First Lady Laura Bush.

Speaking of Senator McCain, he today received the key backing of former first lady Nancy Reagan, who described him as an “old friend” of hers and her late husband, former president Ronald Reagan, since the Vietnam War.

And finally — what about “misspeaking”, eh? Quite a slip up from Senator Clinton.

BBC WHYS question: How should the world react to the trouble in Tibet?

How should the world react to the trouble in Tibet ? « BBC World Have Your Say

An Olympic boycott appears out of the question. Most of the world, including the United States, recognises Tibet to be a part of China, so should it be dismissed as an internal problem that China should handle on its own? That is Russia’s view; at odds with the U.S.’ position that China should hold talks with the Dalai Lama and to, as Secretary of State Dr Condoleeza Rice put it, “respect the fundamental and universally recognised right of … citizens to peacefully express their … views”.

Pressure from the IOC might work; the Games were awarded to China in the hope that it would make China improve its human rights record. But what can the IOC really do? Since a boycott has been ruled out, it would seem the only thing the IOC could do would be to threaten to not let China host another Games ever, but I suspect that would only cause China and its allies to withdraw from the IOC.

United Nations action seems, at first glance, the most sensible thing to do, until you remember that China is a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council. (Side note: The UN police force in Kosovo suffered a major casualty today, as a Ukrainian officer died from injuries sustained fighting Serb nationalists in Mitrovica.) No resolution mandating UN force will ever get passed.

The best hope would be for the violence to die down on its own, and I fear that won’t happen any time soon.