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Journalists, fans, and support staff betrayed by false "open internet" pledge

A secret order to foreign-owned Chinese hotels compels them to spy on guests during the Olympic Games, according to a memo revealed Tuesday by U.S. Senator Sam Brownback.

Brownback, a republican representing Kansas, said he received a document issued by the Chinese Public Security bureau, which orders hotels to install spying equipment on their internet connections and threatens owners with “severe retaliation” – including the possibility of losing their operating licenses – should they fail to comply.

“These hotels are justifiably outraged by this order,” said Brownback at a news conference Tuesday, noting that it forces them into the “awkward position” of having to “craft pop-up messages” informing guests of their loss of privacy.

Brownback said he received a copy of the original document, translated from Chinese, from attorneys representing two different “foreign-owned” hotel chains. The companies want to remain anonymous so that they don’t face further reprisal. Several other international hotel chains confirmed the order.

An AP report said the Chinese embassy was unavailable for comment.

According to the memo, hotels were told that “all hotel rooms and offices” are considered subject to “on-site or remote technical monitoring at all times.”

With little more than a week remaining before the 2008 Summer Olympics begin in Beijing, Chinese hotel owners appear to have little choice. Despite their outrage, hotel companies are more concerned about the long-term repercussions of non-compliance – failure to obey could place an entire company’s operations in jeopardy, potentially locking them out of a lucrative, growing Chinese market.

Meanwhile, athletes and participants staying at the Olympic Village have a unique set of woes for their internet access: an IT contractor recently leaked a list of rates for DSL service charged by BOCOG (Beijing Organizing Committee of the 2008 Olympic Games), with the cheapest option being a 512/512 kilobit line available for 11,700 RMB ($1716.05 USD). 

“I just can't believe that not only do I have to deal with the Great Firewall of China, but also pay through the nose to use it!” wrote the anonymous contractor.

According to Australian newspaper The Age, the International Olympic Committee issued a formal apology Wednesday for “misleading” the world’s press about the China’s “open internet” pledge. Senior IOC member Kevan Gosper, who originally delivered the promise of “unfettered freedom to report in China,” said he was unaware of the apparently backroom negotiations with Chinese censors, which will keep a number of “sensitive sites” blocked from access.

Age reporters said they were unable to access a number of sites involving human rights discussions, Tibet, and the Falun Gong, with merely intermittent access to a larger portfolio of websites including the New York Times, BBC China, al-Jazeera, Radio Free Asia, and Taiwanese newspapers.

 BOCOG spokesman Sun Weide said that China promised journalists that they would “be able to use the internet for their work during the Olympic Games. So we have given them sufficient access to do that.”

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RE: Sounds like the "Patriot Act"
By FITCamaro on 7/31/2008 8:19:22 AM , Rating: 3
Please. The Patriot Act is nothing like this. Does it block you from going anywhere on the web? No. Are they actively monitoring your connection at all times? No. Would the US government prosecute you and even imprison you merely for speaking out against them? No. Or for visiting a site they disapprove of? No.

RE: Sounds like the "Patriot Act"
By Hare on 7/31/08, Rating: 0
RE: Sounds like the "Patriot Act"
By FITCamaro on 7/31/2008 10:59:10 AM , Rating: 2
What does that have to do with the Patriot Act or anything I said?

And are you implying I'm for that? If people want to eat fast food that's their choice. I enjoy it from time to time myself. I'm appalled at the thought of that.

By Seemonkeyscanfly on 8/1/2008 11:36:39 AM , Rating: 2 food restaurants are not the problem...It's people eating to much from the fast food restaurants. Maybe they should just banned obese people from the restaurant. Have a scale by the door that drops a sheet of metal down in front of the door if you are over a certain weight so you can not open the door to come in. I have a bird feeder that does the something like this but based on the weight of a squirrel. keeps the squirrels from eating the bird food.

OK, that's mean I know, but I'd still like to see the reaction of some one if they tried to enter a restaurant and a big sheet of metal blocked the door with a note saying.... The health official say you are too big to come into this restaurant please lose weight and come back another day. Thanks have a great day.

RE: Sounds like the "Patriot Act"
By JohnnyCNote on 7/31/2008 12:57:53 PM , Rating: 2
Please. The Patriot Act is nothing like this. Does it block you from going anywhere on the web?

Not yet. However, they want librarians and bookstores to report on people's reading habits.

Are they actively monitoring your connection at all times?

Having worked for the NSA (via the USAF), I can tell you it's nothing I can rule out. Check out the ECHELON program for starters.

Would the US government prosecute you and even imprison you merely for speaking out against them? No. Or for visiting a site they disapprove of?

Yes and no. To begin with, all they need to do is declare you a "enemy combatant", and then they don't need to prosecute you. At that times it's up to you to prove your innocence, if you're even given a chance, while at Gitmo, or other places around the world.

You can close your eyes to what's happening, with the false sense of security that "it will never happen to me", but others have fallen into that trap, too. Once they realized it, it was way too late to do anything about it . . .

RE: Sounds like the "Patriot Act"
By FITCamaro on 7/31/2008 2:01:17 PM , Rating: 2
I've met our countries monitoring system with a gun to the back of my head buddy. Don't tell me I'm closing my eyes. It HAS happened to me. Not for terrorism. But they monitor for far more than that.

I'm telling you that what they have in place only goes after those who they suspect are doing something they're not supposed to. They could care less about everyone else.

By JohnnyCNote on 7/31/2008 4:24:55 PM , Rating: 2
If you wish to believe that, please go right ahead. Hopefully you'll be spared any rude awakenings . . .

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