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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: And how is this a surprise?
By Master Kenobi on 7/31/2008 8:33:27 AM , Rating: 5
While I do not agree with the requirement to be a democracy to compete. I do not condone the hosting of the olympics by any country with a rights record like China. They are close to the bottom of the list when it comes to rights. Surpassed only by some of the african and middle eastern countries. But the IOC has long been a staple of corruption and stupidity, they thought by bringing the Olympics to China that they would get them to "see the light" but that thought in and of itself shows you how rosey the glasses are that the IOC wears. Hopefully this will serve as an example to the IOC and the international community in general what a mistake it is to host the olympics in such places.

RE: And how is this a surprise?
By WTFiSJuiCE on 7/31/2008 4:04:01 PM , Rating: 2
All China had to do in order to justify their claim that they believe in Human Rights was not try to run over their own people w/ tanks in the open streets for like....what....19 years?

To make themselves look like they were reducing the amt of pollution in their skies by blatantly manipulating their own weather data before submitting it to the IOC?

I mean, when your country is creating toxic winds thanks to the sandstorms that roll into China from the Gobi, pick up all the floating chemicals from the new "Industrial" Mines, Refineries, Etc., spreading it to other countries like Korea(N and S), Japan, and ultimately the U.S. and beyond (tradewinds don't stop) all the while making millions sick and the IOC sees them fit to host games as symbolic as the Olympics?

The people of China aren't to blame here, but a Gov't like China's is fit to host the Olympics?

To quote Sam Jackson: " d*ck wants to laugh."

RE: And how is this a surprise?
By HsiKai on 7/31/2008 4:59:13 PM , Rating: 2
So who then, would you let host or attend the Olympic games? Surely not Eastern European countries. Probably not South American countries either (except maybe Brazil?) unless you're okay with the revolutions and guerrilla warfare down there. Definitely not the United States if we're going by a net human rights abuse statistic. The UK and Australia are probably similarly negligent in their protection of international rights. The Geneva Convention sadly hasn't applied even after its rules were invoked by the world community. I really don't think the U.S. has the right to point fingers when we are so shortsighted when viewing our own history.

I suggest you read "Blowback" by Chalmers Johnson or go browse the internet for CIA operations from it's creation to present as well as Special Operations in Asia from 1962-present. (Specifically Myanmar, Korea, and Vietnam during those times.)

If anything the Olympics should be used as a gateway into positive participation on the international stage.

RE: And how is this a surprise?
By bfu on 7/31/2008 5:27:55 PM , Rating: 2
What human right? you guys have no clue what's like living in a poor country. first they must have enough to eat..., the basic necessites.., that's human right. To let monks worship Dali Lima and split the country apart or lift 150 million people out off poverty, I'll take later any day. But, I do beleive China is moving toward Democratic little by little and finally maybe 20 years from now, in a big nation like China, political things move slowly and it has been improved greatly for the last 20 years.

RE: And how is this a surprise?
By HsiKai on 7/31/2008 6:09:51 PM , Rating: 2
As bfu rightly points out, most people from the country in question believe they're moving in a positive direction, that their country is growing, sometimes slowly, sometimes quite rapidly. I think people too often forget that places outside the U.S. aren't just names, but have people who are just as passionately nationalistic about their country, and about improving it, as westerners are.

Thanks for your post, bfu!

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates
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