The International Olympics Committee (IOC) has spoken up on the issue of the never-been-used Beijing protest parks admitting that Chinese authorities have broken their promise to allow the parks to be used to voice complaints.
“[T]o date, what has been announced publicly doesn’t appear in reality to be happening,” said IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies responding to questions about the unused parks at an Aug. 20 press briefing.
“We would, of course, welcome that the areas are genuinely used,” said Davies.
Beijing originally announced the creation of the parks last July in an apparent concession to accusations that China’s human rights record had gotten worse, not better, in the run up to the Games.
China’s official news agency Xinhua, reported that at least 77 applications have so far been filed by 149 people to protest in the three designated zones. All applications have been rejected.
The reason for the 100 percent rejection rate has become another focus for controversy at the Olympics. Vice President of the Beijing Organizing Committee (BOCOG) Wang Wei explained that there has been no need to use the parks since all problems are being resolved through successful mediation.
Wang said the BOCOG was “quite happy to hear that many of the 77 cases have been resolved… through dialogue and communication.” He added. “For those who want to protest, as long as their problems get solved, it’s good enough.”
Wang’s claim contradicts reports of would-be protesters being intimidated and jailed when applying for permits to protest.
In one striking example, this week two women in their seventies were sentenced to one year of re-education through labor for attempting to obtain permits to protest in one of the parks. The women had been evicted from their Beijing homes in 2001 to make way for a new housing development.
Wu Dianyuan, 79, and Wang Xiuying, 77, visited the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau five times in the space of two weeks to apply for the permits. During their last visit, the women were informed they had received year-long sentences for “disturbing the public order” and were therefore stripped of their rights to protest.
When one reporter asked if the parks were similar to the "100 flowers bloom" campaign where Mao Zedong invited Chinese intellectuals to offer suggestions and criticisms of the Communist Party without fear of reprisal. Wang, the BOCOG VP, told reporters it was different because Mao's effort was "an attempt to let everybody express their opinion."
But Mao Zedong’s “100 flowers bloom” movement in 1957 was actually a ploy to ferret out dissenters and a massive wave of persecution followed against those who criticized the Party.
In a letter to his provincial Party chiefs, Mao had expressed that his true intention was to “lure the snakes out of their holes” by opening the door to criticism. The Epoch Times editorial series Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party details this history.