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China Rolls Out Security Crackdown Ahead of Olympics

In preparation for the Olympics, China has mobilized thousands of police and military and enacted unusual security masures to protect Beijing during the Games. Analysts examine how Beijing has sought to hone its image and tighten its security.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    When Beijing won the right to host the 2008 Olympic Summer Games seven years ago, there were widespread celebrations and suggestions that it would bring greater openness to China.

  • CHINESE CITIZEN:

    It will be a big promote for the country to arrive in the right direction.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    But in the lead-up to Friday night's opening ceremony, Chinese authorities have been detaining and arresting dissidents of all stripes and even ordinary Chinese with a grievance against the government.

    This woman says she was held in solitary confinement for 20 days after associating with people involved in demonstrations against the Olympic torch relay.

  • OU WENZHOU, Human Rights Activist (through translator):

    They pushed me into a car, and then they got a black cloth and covered my head like this. The whole ride was completely in the dark with the cloth on top of my head.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    The Chinese government is also making it harder for potential trouble-makers from overseas, like those who protested the torch relay after the Tibet crackdown in March to get visas to come to China for the games. And the government is blocking rural residents from coming to Beijing to protest over local issues.

    Security checkpoints now surround the capital city of nearly 17 million. Chinese authorities have set up three places for protests and demonstrations during the games: at three public parks, far from the main Olympic venues.

    China says the crackdown is essential to prevent acts of terrorism, an issue that looms large for any Olympic host. Some 100,000 Chinese army troops have been deployed in that effort.

  • LIU JIANCHAO, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson (through translator):

    It is necessary for us to tighten security measures according to specific situations in some important public places of Beijing during the Olympics.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Chinese officials point to yesterday's attack that killed 16 police officers in a majority Muslim city in western China. The city is home to a separatist group, the Turkestan Islamic Party, that last week released a video threatening attacks during the games and claiming responsibility for two bus bombings last month in south-central China.

    Chinese officials have asked for the world's understanding of its need for stepped-up security.

  • LIU JIANCHAO (through translator):

    We hope the international community can understand China's concerns and promote cooperation with China on the issue of fighting against terrorism.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    President Bush, who left for Asia yesterday, told the Washington Post en route, "They're hypersensitive to a potential terrorist attack. My hope is, of course, that, as they have their security in place, that they're mindful of the spirit of the games and that, if there is a provocation, they handle it in a responsible way, without violence."

    Mr. Bush will join other world leaders for the opening ceremony on Friday.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    The crackdown extends beyond Beijing, as we hear in this report from John Ray of Independent Television News in Sichuan province. That's where a devastating earthquake hit in May.

  • JOHN RAY, ITN’s ITV News Correspondent:

    Last stop before Beijing for the Olympic flame, Sichuan today, where they paused to remember the dead of May's earthquake, even as more aftershocks struck the region.

    The Chinese called the torch relay a journey of harmony. But here we found little harmony, only anger and tears.

    Gian Ranjin's daughter died when her school collapsed, one of thousands of child victims. Now her mother has been warned not to ask awkward questions during the Olympics.

    "We've been told that, if we make trouble, our names will be blacklisted and our phones bugged," she says.

    China's response to the earthquake matched the scale of the disaster and won wide praise, but when parents began to blame corruption for the shoddy school buildings that buried their children, the authorities were no longer so sympathetic or welcoming, as we found out when police followed us on our return to Sichuan.

    We came to meet the family of an activist who took up the parents' cause. In return, Wang Chi has been slung into jail and charged with possession of state secrets. Neither mother nor wife, let alone lawyer, has been allowed to visit.

    ZENG LI, Wife of Jailed Activist (through translator): The principle of the Olympic spirit is harmony and democracy. The reason they've arrested my husband is they don't want him to speak the truth. He has no freedom of speech.

  • JOHN RAY:

    Back at the school, parents still gather every day, even though it's weeks since the ruins were cleared.

    Outside, we meet mothers and fathers, and we see pictures of lost children. But before we can talk, plainclothes police arrive and demand our I.D. Every regulation, all these passes, is all to stop these parents talking to the outside world. There's no arguing. We're ordered to leave.

    It hasn't taken very long for the plainclothes police to turn up and tell us that we really can't be here and that we're not allowed to talk to any of the parents. And they're telling us that we have to leave straight away.

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