From The Australian:
Back in 2001, China’s Olympic bid committee argued that awarding the 2008 Games to Beijing would help the development of human rights.
The message was intended for foreign, not Chinese, ears but it has spread through more than a million Chinese chat rooms and 20 million blogs. Not only intellectuals but elder statesmen within the Communist Party and even groups of semi-literate farmers are seizing their chance to air their grievances in a year when China’s treatment of its citizens will be under scrutiny as never before.
China intended the Olympics to be a $40billion showcase for its triumphant economic revival, but as Beijing grooms half a million volunteers to take visitors helpfully in hand, the authorities are nervously realising that, with more than 20,000 journalists expected in town, it will be harder than they expected to hide from view the tensions and gross inequalities resulting from its chaotic dash for growth, or the reality that the political system is badly out of step with a rapidly changing society. Increasingly outspoken demands for cleaner air, cleaner politics and a fairer society that respects individual rights are welling up from below, and not only from below. The Deng-era reformer Li Rui, an elder statesman too eminent to be silenced, declared just before October’s party congress that China’s most bitterly resented problems – rampant official corruption and disregard for the environment – would not be cured without a revolution to open up the system. [Full Text]