Tue, Aug 07, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Police in Beijing rough up journalists during press protest

AP , BEIJING

Beijing police roughed up journalists yesterday at a rare protest staged by a press freedom group that accuses the government of failing to meet promises for greater media freedom one year ahead of the Olympic Games.

Members of Reporters Without Borders unfurled posters depicting the Olympic rings made from handcuffs on a bridge near the headquarters of the Beijing Olympics planning committee.

The Paris-based group said China continues to restrict press freedoms and lock up journalists, political dissidents and activists who publish on the Internet, despite pledges to liberalize that it made when bidding to stage the games.

No `boycott'

"Most important is that we didn't come to call for a boycott," group member Vincent Brosseo said.

"We are calling for concrete achievements, the release of political prisoners, opening Web access and ending radio jamming," he said.

The Beijing Olympics, which begin next August, are a huge source of pride for China.

In bidding for the games back in 2001, Chinese leaders promised International Olympic Committee members that the Olympics would lead to an improved climate for human rights and media freedoms.

Foreign journalists were promised "complete freedom to report."

Yet police swarmed the bridge and roughed up journalists covering the protest yesterday, seizing identity cards and refusing to allow them to leave the scene. Reporters were detained in a parking lot directly opposite the Olympics office tower, facing the Beijing Olympic logo and Olympic rings on the building.

FOREIGN REPORTERS

Under a regulation announced last year, foreign reporters can travel and conduct interviews in China without asking for government approval.

The temporary freedoms do not extend to Chinese journalists.

Police refused to say why reporters were not allowed to leave the scene.

A woman in the office of the Foreign Ministry said she did not know about the case and would look into it.

Liu Wei (劉偉) from the information office of the Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee said she was not aware of the situation.

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