Posted by: Dexter Roberts on August 15, 2008
The head of Beijing’s organizing committee for the Olympics has responded angrily to Western reporters asking about China’s promise to allow dissidents to speak out. This follows just days after Chinese police roughed up a British journalist reporting on a Tibetan independence protest.
When asked whether Beijing had allowed protests in any of the three designated protest parks, BOCOG secretary general Wang Wei first said he had not received information from the public security bureau about that, and so could not answer the question. When asked the question again, he apparently decided to go on the attack:
“After 30 years of reform China has developed greatly,” Wang said. “People enjoy more freedom. People are living a good life. Everyone is happy. That’s a fact. Of course there are exceptions, like in any other country. But they need to take the legal process and procedures to resolve any issues. We cannot allow this country to be in chaos.”
Fair enough—China has developed greatly. Most people do have far more freedom than ever before in China’s history. And avoiding ‘chaos’ is obviously important anywhere including in a massive country like China. He continued: “There are a few people who have come here to peek, to be critical, to dig into the small details and find fault,” he said.
Okay, that’s where he begins to lose me—if nothing else, a reporter’s job should be to peek, to dig into the small details and to expose what otherwise might be missed—whether it is positive or negative. Yes, there should be lots of reporting about how much China has progressed—and I think we are seeing much of that variety of news coming out of the Games.
But at the same time, there is a grand tradition in journalism of so-called muckraking, or reporting that digs up wrongdoing in public or private life. That fact seems to be something lost on the vast majority of Chinese officials (and perhaps too on many officials around the world—but they not the subject of today’s blog.)