77 Olympic Protest Applications Received, Zero Approved

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Chinese authorities have received 77 applications from people who want to hold protests during the Beijing Olympics, but all were withdrawn, suspended or rejected, state media said Monday.

The official Xinhua News Agency provided the first details about how Beijing's plan to allow strictly regulated protests in three designated areas during the games was working. The plan helped ease pressure on the government and Olympic officials over China's poor human rights record.

Xinhua said the 77 applications received since Aug. 1, a week before the games opened, were submitted by 149 people, including three from overseas. The complaints ranged from labor and medical disputes to inadequate welfare, it said.

Citing an unidentified spokesman for the Public Security Bureau, Xinhua said 74 of the applications were withdrawn because the problems "were properly addressed by relevant authorities or departments through consultations."

Two other applications were suspended because they did not provide sufficient information and one was rejected because it violated laws against demonstrations and protests, the spokesman said.

The bureau also received 22 inquiries about application procedures, Xinhua said.

No further details were given. A woman who answered the telephone at the spokesman's office of the bureau would not comment on the report.

In July, China said protests would be allowed during the Olympics at the World Park, three miles (five kilometers) from the softball field; Purple Bamboo Park south of the volleyball arena; and Ritan Park, which is not near any venue.

There have been no demonstrations in the areas since the games started, though small unregulated protests have occurred at other places in the city. Most of them have been conducted by foreigners who have been swiftly deported after unfurling "Free Tibet" banners.

Human rights groups and families of people who have applied for permits to protest in the parks say some were taken away afterward by security agents, prompting critics to accuse officials of using the plan as a trap to draw potential protesters to their attention.

Under the protest park rules, applications must be filed five days in advance and a response would be provided 48 hours before the requested rally time, officials said. Liu Shaowu, the Beijing Olympics' security chief, also warned that protests must not harm "national, social and collective interests."

Protests have become common in China — from workers upset about factory layoffs to farmers angry about land confiscation — but the Communist leadership remains wary about large demonstrations, fearing they could snowball into anti-government movements.

The sensitivity is even more marked during the Olympics, which China hopes will showcase the country as a modern world power.

Wang Wei, vice president of the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, on Monday defended the protest plan to journalists, some of whom have pressed Olympic officials to show how China has improved human rights, a promise it made while bidding to host the games.

"Many problems have not been solved, not even by the United Nations, and some want them to be solved during the Olympic Games, putting pressure on the International Olympic Committee and the Beijing Olympic Committee," Wang said.

"This is not realistic," he said. "We think that you do not really understand China's reality. China has its own version and way of exercising our democracy."

On Monday, a group of about a dozen people applied for permits to protest about being forcibly evicted from their homes in four districts to make way for a redevelopment project.

As they lodged their application at the Public Security Bureau, plainclothes security officers videotaped them and took their photographs, a common method for Chinese authorities to keep track of dissenting voices and one that intimidates many Chinese.

"I have lived all over since I became homeless, including tunnels, warehouses, on the street, and the houses of friends and relatives," Yang Shuangjun, 37, who lost his home in 2006, told AP reporters who were present. "What they have done to us is unlawful and unfair."

"I don't think they will give us any answers, but despite this, we still want to try to march within the law," said Yang, a tall, soft-spoken man.

Another petitioner, Sun Liwei, said she also has slept on the streets and relied on the kindness of friends since being kicked out of her home in 2005.

"My heart aches," said Sun, a 52-year-old former teacher, her eyes filling with tears. "I have always believed in my government, even though I have lost everything. My possessions, my home, and my job were taken away from me. I don't feel like a citizen anymore."

The group left after about two hours. Most were not optimistic about getting their applications approved.