China Has Not Approved Any of 77 Olympic Protest Requests

Chinese authorities have not approved any of the 77 applications they received from people who wanted to hold protests during the Beijing Olympics, state media reported.

According the rules governing protests, Tuesday is the last day anyone could apply for permission to demonstrate during the games.

The state-run Xinhua News Agency said Monday the 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.

But 74 of the applications were withdrawn because the problems "were properly addressed by relevant authorities or departments through consultations," Xinhua said, citing an unidentified spokesman for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

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.

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.

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 more marked during the Olympics, which China hopes will showcase the country as a modern power.

In July, China said protests would be allowed in three parks far from games venues.

But there were also rules to be followed: Applications with detailed paperwork must be filed five days in advance and protests must not harm "national, social and collective interests." A response would be provided 48 hours before the requested rally time, officials promised.

With Tuesday marking the last day applications can be lodged, Human Rights Watch warned that time was running out for China. "The clock is ticking for the Chinese government to demonstrate its good faith regarding these so-called protest zones," said Phelim Kine, an Asia researcher for the New York-based group.

But 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 as it promised to do while bidding to host the games.

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

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