The Chicago Tribune’s Evan Osnos follows one woman’s quest to prove China’s commitment to free speech during Games:
Shortly before the Olympics, the Chinese government announced the creation of special “protest zones” around Beijing, where people could legally express themselves — and China could showcase its commitment to free speech.
Manuela Parrino is a 40-year-old Italian who has lived in Beijing for the last 41/2 years with her husband, an Italian television correspondent, and their son, Jacopo. “I was kind of fed up with all the visiting journalists talking negatively about China. I was at the press conference where they announced the new protest areas, and I thought, ‘OK, let’s give this a try.’ ”
…The next day, she returned to the police station, where she was met by a fancy official black car with a driver. At the environment bureau she was greeted by a team of senior officials who embarked on a detailed presentation about China’s environmental policies and its investment in pollution control.
“At 4:30, after three hours, I said, ‘This is all great. I appreciate what you are doing. But I have an aiyi who needs to leave at 5 p.m.,” said Parrino, speaking in English during the interview and using the Chinese term for a nanny. The experts implored her to stay, and before long, a more senior official arrived to add his insights.
“At one point, I said, ‘Everyone has been very nice to me for the last two days. Would it be the same if I was a Chinese citizen?’ They said, ‘Chinese people don’t like to protest. They like to go to institutions and collaborate to find solutions.’ ”
Indeed, Beijing’s protest zones have proved remarkably lacking in protests. So far, 77 protest applications have been filed, according to the state news service. Most were over labor and health-care disputes or problems with social services. But, of those, 74 were voluntarily withdrawn after their problems “were properly addressed by relevant authorities.” Official efforts to dissuade Parrino, however, were unsuccessful.
What about those Chinese people who “like to go to institutions and collaborate to find solutions”? Please watch the following video clip:
More on life of petitioners in Beijing, please click here to watch this Chinese underground documentary – “East Village” 《东庄》.