2010 Asian Games host Guangzhou to allow protests

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 20 2008 02:56 PM | Updated as of Oct 20 2008 11:05 PM

SANUR - The Chinese organizers of the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou said Monday protests would be allowed "in certain areas" during the event, but were reluctant to provide details.

They also indicated they would follow the policy China adopted for the Beijing Olympics in allowing foreign reporters greater freedoms to do their jobs, although the same rights do not extend to domestic journalists.

"Yes, we will allow protests to take place in certain areas. We have planned for this," said Guangzhou government vice-secretary general Gu Shiyang.

But Gu, speaking on behalf of the city's vice mayor Xu Ruisheng who had poor English, refused to elaborate when pressed by AFP, becoming increasingly irritated.

"We are not so interested in this question, we are very busy with organizing the Games, not about protests," he said on the sidelines of the inaugural Asian Beach Games in Bali.

"We are interested in hosting one of the best Games ever. We are not holding the Games for protesters, we are holding the Games for Asia."

China promised to improve its human rights record when it was awarded the right to host the Olympic Games seven years ago but rights groups said it failed.

Under pressure, the government in Beijing set up three zones for use by demonstrators during the August 8-24 Games, but not a single protest was formally approved, with some applicants being detained.

Another area of concern during the Olympics was the ability of reporters to do their job unhindered.

China put in place new rules as part of their Olympic commitments, and extended them on Friday, allowing media to report outside the city in which they were officially based without having to get authorization.

But they still have to get permission from local authorities to gain access to the sensitive Himalayan region of Tibet.

Gu said Guangzhou would follow the same policy.

"The Asian Games policy for media will be consistent with the Beijing Olympic Games," he said.

"We will strictly observe and obey China's laws and institutions. I'm sure media representatives will get full freedom to report the Games, the sports and the city Guangzhou."

Asked if reporters would be allowed to report on contentious subjects such as human rights without hindrance, Gu said: "We accept criticisms."

He refused to comment on whether all websites, regardless of whether they were critical of China, would be freely accessible.