Olympic protesters required to apply 5 days in advance

8/3/2008 - Olympic Sports

BEIJING -- Foreign and local protesters who want to speak out against the Beijing Olympics are required to apply five days in advance, and not harm "national interests," the security chief for the Olympic organizing committee said.

Accused of repressing dissent, China recently said it would allow officially approved demonstrations to be held at three parks in the capital.

Liu Shaowu, security chief for the Beijing Organizing Committee, detailed the steps necessary on a statement posted on the official Olympics news Web site Saturday, but warned that China has a broad ban against gatherings deemed "harmful" to national interests.

"Assembling to march and protest is a citizen's right. But it must be stressed that when exercising this right, citizens must respect and not harm others' freedoms and rights and must not harm national, social and collective interests," Liu said in the statement.

Chinese citizens must turn in a written application to police while foreigners must submit an application to the border entry-exit administration.

Police will inform applicants whether they received approval at the latest two days before the protest, he said. If they don't hear from the police, that can be taken as approval, Liu said.

China has always been wary of protests of any kind. But the government apparently agreed in hopes of blunting criticism that the Summer Games allowed for no public protests. The protest areas are in public parks several miles from the main Olympic stadium.

Tightened visa checks have prevented or deterred foreign groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists from coming to Beijing, although Dream for Darfur said its visa application was pending.

Overseas broadcasters, such as NBC which paid hundreds of millions of dollars to air the games, are still wrangling with organizers over restrictions on live coverage around the city.