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Olympic Protesting: What about those "Protest Zones"?

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Similarly, if three special "protest zones" are created for the Olympics but no one has any information about them, do they really exist? Apparently not. Beijing's so-called "Protest Zones" were about as exciting as a slow day at an old folks home. In an effort to appease its foreign critics, China announced in early August that it had designated three parks around Beijing as official protest areas for demonstrations approved by the government. While some would-be activists condemned China for trying to isolate and contain free speech, protest zones have in fact been used at past Games, including the Salt Lake and Athens Olympics. What's truly problematic about Beijing's protest zones is the lack of detailed information provided by Chinese officials. Aside from the names of the protest sites, very little was given about what each zone consisted of and how would-be protesters could lawfully use them. City Weekend set out today to get the answers. The first site we visited was [Beijing's World Park](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/beijing/listings/sports/parks/has/yuyuantan-park/) located in the deep, deep, deeeeep southwestern corner of the city. The park is spread across 46.7 hectares of land and is famous for its miniaturized reproductions of famous international landmarks (which some suspect is a clever ploy to trick the people watching abroad into believing the protests aren't really happening in China). There are only two buses that run all the way there -- the #905 and #7 -- both of which run infrequently and from inconvenient points. And if transportation isn't enough to dissuade protesters from coming, the cost might. Admission tickets into the park, where protests will presumably take place, are 65RMB apiece. What's worse, none of employees at the park had ever heard of the protest zone and had no idea where it could be located on the park grounds. Thankfully, the second protest zone is situated in the much more accessible [Zizhuyuan - Purple Bamboo Park](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/beijing/listings/sports/parks/has/zizhuyuan-park/) in Haidian District. Entry into the park was free, but the staff were equally puzzled by the mention of the protest zone. The two teenage girls manning the tourist information desk immediately shook their head and said, "I don't know what you're talking about." There were, however, a suspiciously large number of police and "Capital Public Security Volunteers" patrolling the park, each outfitted with Secret Service-like ear pieces that they whispered into while eying the crowd. When approached for directions to the protest zone, they sternly shook their head, pointed to the Civic Code for Beijing Residents (which starts with "1. Love motherland, Love Beijing, cherish national harmony, and maintain stability") and walked away. At one point, I saw a mass of people gathered in the East Gate and heard a booming voice projected over a megaphone. I excitedly ran over hoping to see the birth of a spontaneous protest, only to discover that it was in fact a ballroom dancing class, and the voice I had heard was just the instructor keeping count for a dozen or so waltzing octogenarians. The third and final protest site is located in the serene environs of [Ritan Park](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/beijing/listings/sports/parks/has/venue-2005-07-28-5987002439/). Nestled among willowy trees and well-guarded embassies, the Sun Altar is pretty much the antithesis of all things rebellious. And, like the previous two "protest sites," there was no indication whatsoever that a specially-designated protest zone existed there. However, for the first time, I did get some answers from the on-site staff. A middle-aged woman wearing a red and gold "Welcome to the Olympics" sash informed me that no specific location existed as yet for protests, but if/when the Public Security Bureau granted you a protest permit, they would also assign you an exact time and location for your demonstration. "We are just a park," she said. "We don't decide these things." The _paichusuo_ I visited on my way home, though unable to issue a permit themselves, did inform me that protest applicants **had** to provide specific details about their planned protest, such as the exact cause they were campaigning for, potential slogans/chants, the exact number of people that would participate and any media they were bringing. Applicants would also have to prove long-term or permanent residence, seemingly denying migrant travelers and foreigners the right to protest. But that doesn't mean we won't keep on trying anyways... **Click VIEW ALL IMAGES to view the slideshow!** Get all your Olympic info at our [Olympic Guide](http://www.cityweekend.com.cn/beijing/articles/blogs-beijing/beijing-olympics/everything-you-need-to-know-to-have-a-blast-and-not-get-lost-or-go-hungry-during-the-olympics/).

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stonebanks's picture


So did you get CW a protest permit?
tombschrader's picture


Agreed. I was really curious about this, and you beat all the biggies (NYTimes, Newsweek, etc.) to the punch on the story.


Great story!
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