Olympic foul

Our view : Chinese should be censured

August 01, 2008

China has spent billions of dollars aiming to impress the world when the 2008 Olympic Games open in Beijing next week. But now the world is discovering that this rising giant has decided that it doesn't have to play by the rules. The government repeatedly promised that international journalists would have free access to the Internet as they cover the games. Instead, early arrivers this week ran head on into the sweeping censorship that hobbles Internet access for millions of Chinese.

Press center access to more than 100 sites - including Amnesty International, which tracks world human rights abuses, and the BBC's Chinese language service - has been blocked.

The censorship is just the latest in a series of offensive acts that should compel President Bush and other world leaders to condemn China's dismal record on human rights and press freedom. The Chinese suggested that progress would be made on those fronts when they competed to host the Games. Not only has that not happened, but China has taken other actions for which Mr. Bush and the International Olympic Committee have offered only mild admonitions. In recent days, the authorities have cracked down on and arrested a growing number of dissidents. A school employee in Sichuan province, for example, was ordered to a labor camp for taking photographs of schools that collapsed in the May 12 earthquake and posting them on the Internet, a human rights group reported this week. And there are reports that hotels used by Olympic visitors have been required to install software that would give the government access to their laptops when connected to the Net.

China's remarkable economic progress has led to a higher quality of life and limited personal freedoms for many individuals. But more meaningful social and political reforms won't occur unless Chinese leaders realize there is a significant price in world opinion to be paid for oppressing their citizens and spying on visitors.

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