China and its Friends

Geoffrey York writes in the Globe and Mail:

In a commentary in its Friday edition, the People's Daily made an extraordinary appeal to its readers. It urged the Chinese government and ordinary Chinese citizens to "befriend the media."

The People's Daily – the most venerable of China's propaganda organs – declared an unofficial ceasefire in China's frequent attacks on the foreign media. "To serve the media is to serve the Olympic games," it said. "To befriend the media is to befriend the audience… It is through the media that the audiences across the world are learning about the Olympics, China and Beijing."

You'll forgive me if my reaction to this friendship offer was a little skeptical. In fact, just a few hours after this commentary was published, the Chinese police were extremely unfriendly in their attitude towards journalists who dared to film and photograph the embarrassing scenes of chaos in Beijing when huge crowds of people jostled for the final Olympic tickets.

Several journalists from Hong Kong were manhandled, pushed, dragged and forcibly removed from the scene by the Chinese police because the police disliked their attempts to record the chaos. One journalist was detained by police, and another needed medical treatment after being shoved to the ground by police.

Yesterday, in a rare apology, a senior Olympic organizer summoned the Hong Kong media for a "tea meeting" in Beijing and admitted that the police may have "mishandled" the incident. "We deeply regret what happened," the official said.


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