Fri, Aug 01, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Beijing firm on maintaining its grip on the Web

RED FACES The head of the IOC press commission said he had been left out of the loop and felt like the fall guy after learning that Web access would be restricted

AGENCIES , BEIJING

Aboriginal performers from Taiwan leave Beijing's National Stadium after a rehearsal of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games opening ceremony yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

China said yesterday it was “determined” to maintain its controls on the Internet, amid criticism over its decision to censor the Web for foreign reporters covering the Olympics.

“We are determined to implement the regulations and to try to implement the regulations effectively,” foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao (劉建超) told reporters.

Reporters trying to surf the Internet at the main press center for the Games have found a wide array of sites deemed sensitive by China’s rulers to be out-of-bounds.

Liu would not be drawn further on the issue yesterday.

“I’ve already expanded on China’s position. I will not add more on that,” he said when asked to identify all the Web sites censored for Olympics reporters and to provide a list.

Liu also described as “unfair” claims by US Senator Sam Brownback this week that China was planning to spy on guests who stayed at foreign-owned hotels during the Games.

“In China, privacy is respected and guaranteed. In hotels and other public places, there is no special arrangement that is beyond internationally, generally used security measures,” he said.

Brownback on Tuesday gave out English translations of two documents he said were received by hotels, outlining the Chinese government’s instructions on how to implement Internet spying software and hardware by yesterday.

Lu also criticized a US House of Representatives’ resolution on Wednesday that criticizes Beijing’s human rights record and calls on it to end its support for the regimes in Myanmar and Sudan.

“We urge the American side to stop the disgusting actions of this small group of anti-Chinese lawmakers,” Liu was quoted as saying on the ministry’s Web site. “This action itself is blasphemous to the spirit of the Olympics and is against the will of the people all over the world, including the American people.”

Meanwhile, dissent erupted in the senior ranks of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), with the head of its press commission suggesting that IOC president Jacques Rogge acquiesced to Chinese plans to censor Internet access during the Games.

Kevan Gosper, the press commission head, said he was startled to find out earlier this week that some Web sites would be blocked in the work rooms for reporters covering the games.

For months Gosper, Rogge and others have publicly said Beijing agreed to unblock the Web during the Games. The reversal, Gosper said, left him feeling like the “fall guy.”

“But I really do not know the detail. I only know the ground rules on censorship have changed, but have only been announced here. It must have related to a former understanding to which I was not a party,” he said.

“This certainly isn’t what we guaranteed the international media and it’s certainly contrary to normal circumstances of reporting on Olympic Games,” he said.

Rogge arrived in Beijing yesterday, but declined to speak as he left the airport.

In other news, Olympic organizers slammed a South Korean TV station yesterday for broadcasting of a dress rehearsal for the Games opening ceremony.

The network, one of three South Korean TV rights holders allowed to distribute Olympic footage, aired just over a minute of video of the closed-door rehearsal. It included scenes depicting the past and future of Chinese culture and the unrolling of a huge scroll.

“We went and nobody stopped us. So we just shot,” a reporter at the SBS sports desk said in Seoul.

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