In 2001, while presenting its bid to host the 2008 summer Olympic games, the Chinese government made some unusual promises: a better record in human rights and more freedom of the press. In the seven years since then, these promises have been broken rather spectacularly. Ironically, preparation for the Games has itself become one of the main causes of worsening conditions in human rights.
For one, the government has razed the homes of citizens, and has forcibly relocated them, in order to build some of its huge new Olympic facilities. Second, it has ordered a press campaign to stress the glory of the Olympics, to squelch any domestic complaint, and to counter “negative reporting” by overseas media. Third, it has intensified a crackdown on dissidents, on rights activists, and on “petitioners”–meaning people who travel to Beijing in pursuit of the redress of grievances. Writers have been imprisoned, petitioners villages have been “cleaned up,” and beggars have been forced out of Beijing.