By Christopher Bodeen
Beijing, November 1 – China will not tolerate unauthorized parades, demonstrations or other gatherings during next year's Olympic Games, a police spokesman said Thursday in a warning to groups hoping to use the Games' visibility to publicize their causes.
“Any group or individual who stages a gathering, parade, or demonstration during the Beijing Olympic Games period must respect Chinese law,” Public Security Ministry press officer Wu Heping said. “As to those legal activities, police will protect them according to the law. As for those activities that are illegal, we police will handle them according to the law.”
Chinese law technically permits protests and other similar actions, but they require applications that are almost never approved. Those who dare even make such requests can be subject to surveillance, harassment or arrest, especially if the cause involved is seen to challenge Communist Party authority.
China's one-party government attracts international criticism and the possibility of protests by critics of the regime are among the challenges to Olympic organizers, along with air pollution and traffic.
In a preview of possible developments next year, various groups issued statements or held demonstrations ahead of the one-year countdown to the Games on Aug. 8, criticizing lack of human rights or press freedoms.
Among the events, a group of activists hung a banner on the Great Wall calling for Tibetan independence.
China is also under fire for its support for regimes such as Sudan and Myanmar. Chinese embassies have been picketed over those issues, with many of the protesters calling for an Olympic boycott or otherwise linking their complaints to the Games.
Chinese authorities held anti-terrorism drills in Shanghai and Beijing Wednesday in preparation for the Games.
The exercise Wednesday in Shanghai's Yangshan Deep-Water Port involved five mock terrorists hiding in shipping containers, the state Xinhua news agency said. Shanghai, which has the largest port in China, is to host some soccer matches during the 2008 games.
The drill involved 200 police officers, 45 vehicles, 13 ships and two helicopters, Xinhua quoted Peng Cuihong, an official who commanded the drill, as saying.
The safety drill at Beijing's airport that involved police, firefighters and soldiers rehearsing a range of scenarios from explosives disposal to dispersing angry mobs, the Beijing News reported.