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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 FITCamaro on 7/31/2008 10:48:02 AM , Rating: 2
Glad you know me better than I do.

Yes I've only been overseas once. Sorry. I didn't have rich parents who could send me on European vacations growing up. And I don't have the money to take them now. I hope to visit other parts of the world more one day. But I'll never live in them.

And I'm about 1100 miles from my hometown.

And I said most of Europe. Greece has a government much like ours here in the US. Of course much of Europe belongs to the EU which definitely is not a democratic organization. And Greece is a member. It's only a matter of time before EU members form into a single country.

RE: And how is this a surprise?
By Hare on 7/31/2008 11:22:46 AM , Rating: 2
It's only a matter of time before EU members form into a single country.

The EU is an economic union with a common trade policy etc.

I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the EU to become a single country... What would be the benefit and why would this happen?

RE: And how is this a surprise?
By JustTom on 7/31/2008 12:52:44 PM , Rating: 2
While the EU is certainly an economic union it has reach far beyond economic activity. And yes, there are attempts, ongoing in fact, to broaden its powers. The latest proposed EU Constitution would, if ratified, codify the Charter of Fundamenta Rights into binding law for all members of the Union.

The scope of the Union's power has been increasing for decades. I am not arguing whether this is a good or bad thing (IMO I think it is some of both) but it is happening.

RE: And how is this a surprise?
By Hare on 7/31/2008 1:17:50 PM , Rating: 2
The Union's power is indeed increasing but there are so many different countries and cultures involved that I don't really see anyone willing to give up their independence for one huge country with centralized government.

EU countries can't even pick a single currency (there are 12 different currencies currently), so I doubt we'll see the member countries mergin soon ;)

By Alexstarfire on 7/31/2008 3:49:42 PM , Rating: 2
Things don't happen all at once, they happen slowly. Unless a war breaks out, the EU isn't going to merge into one country overnight. It'll be a couple decades longer...... but it'll happen at this rate.

It's like the way things are now in the US. We don't just give up our freedoms.... they slowly get taken away with each stupid law that gets passed. A bit here, a bit there... but those bits add up damn it.

By Rodney McNaggerton on 7/31/2008 4:42:25 PM , Rating: 2

By Seemonkeyscanfly on 7/31/2008 4:47:14 PM , Rating: 1
Look to the USA as an example. Most even in the USA do not understand the set up of our Government. The USA is not one country, nope. Currently it is 50 independent countries acting as one. The idea is to work together on expensive things like protection from invasion (military), postal (transfer of information), easy trade between countries (one common bank system).... then each country has rights to pick for themselves other laws like; death penalty or not? Maybe top speed limit, Motorcycle helmets....
It's just when they wrote the USA Constitution it was decided to call them states and not countries.
The USA had an advantage, we were forced to work together otherwise as 13 nations trying to break away from another we would have failed.

RE: And how is this a surprise?
By Ringold on 8/1/2008 12:52:24 AM , Rating: 2
EU countries can't even pick a single currency (there are 12 different currencies currently)

I don't know if its that high or not, but most of the major members use the Euro, and some eastern ones peg to it.

Beyond that, I don't see how you could be ignoring the clear trend for the EU; further and further pooling of tidbits of sovereignty in to Brussels. For example, you're probably going to see Ireland be forced to continue to vote on Lisbon until it gets it "right." The politicians clearly want Lisbon to succeed, as Ireland has been the only one to hold a referendum. Other governments, more cowardly, ratified the treaty in parliament (or whatever, senate, etc) despite public opinion polls.

The EU is simply undergoing the same process the United States has undergone. We went from independent, sovereign states to a single federal government in about 90 years, roughly 1776 to 1865. It may take Europe as long, but perhaps not. American's had the spine to stand up against the federal government, and slowed its expansion for decades before finally fighting a vicious civil war. Europe, lacking such spine, will probably put up little such resistance, speeding the process along.

Plus, you sound like you're from Europe. Maybe you live in a strange part of Europe, but the Europeans I know, and the papers I read from Europe all treat nationalism as a dirty, ignorant thing. That bodes well for the expansion of EU powers, and badly for the sovereignty of the individual nations within it.

RE: And how is this a surprise?
By boogle on 8/1/2008 4:42:57 AM , Rating: 2
You're ignoring the UK, we like to be independant and hate extra power going to the EU. When the Euro came along, there was no chance at all of the UK going with Euros. UK also has the biggest military force in Europe and since the US would inevitably back the UK up, then the EU becoming a federation is less likely. Assuming of course we have a 'civil' war like the US did. It's unlikely though, chances are as has been said, it'll just be a slow gradual process where the population are slowly converted over to the EU idea.

Personally though, I'm a fan of the EU. It doesn't take crap, it loves free trade, and unites Europe. Can only be a good thing (tm). Then again if someone said we're giving up pounds sterling, I might suddenly reverse that view :p

There is a fairly common question people talk about in the UK, 'go with the US or the EU?', since there's a underlying throught that we'll need to go with one or the other. People obviously preferred neither, but prior to Afghanistan / Iraq the thought was slightly in the US favour. Now its with the EU.

RE: And how is this a surprise?
By Ringold on 8/1/2008 12:40:51 PM , Rating: 3
It doesn't take crap

What? I'm almost speechless here. The EU has bent over and taken Russia's belligerence like a cheap whore on energy, partly because Germany's in bed with them. This is why Eastern European states have wanted to join NATO; deep disappointment with Brussels, which has failed to protect them from Moscow. Where was the EU when Russia launched its attack on its neighbors networks? Where is the EU when Russia threatens to cut off nat-gas? Where is the EU trying to be a good neighbor and involving itself with South Ossetia / Georgia?

I'll say one thing though.. the ECB sure doesn't take crap. Jean Claude Trichet should perhaps run the entire EU.

it loves free trade

Unless, of course, it doesn't involve the untouchable agriculture sector. Thanks, Europe, for helping to kill Doha. With the emission scheme, it may soon be an issue to trade with any country not employing a similar carbon restriction program. That'll cripple trade with the developing world if protectionist forces manage to get the upper hand.

'go with the US or the EU?'

How about a third option? Glorious independence! If you guys need an example, you could look to Switzerland or Norway. They seem to be getting along well without having any special sugar-daddy.

RE: And how is this a surprise?
By boogle on 8/1/2008 1:16:14 PM , Rating: 2
I was talking about internally. The EU has no requirement to become a world policeman, only the US seems to have delusions of being morally superior and therefore controlling the world with its police force, often named 'Officer Carrier Group' and 'Corporal USMC' found in countries where there is oil but curiously not in countries without oil. I'd rather be in a country that doesn't interfere, but should you attack, you'll get more than a bloody nose. Unfortunately the UK interferes because the US interferes so our political well-being has gone from good to abysmal.

Trade again, I was talking internally. There's very little red-tape between EU states when it comes to trade. But I'm sure the US' trade is supremely fair and doesn't benefit the US at the cost of other countries whatsoever. A model for us all.

I like your 'sugar-daddy' reference. Which state are you from? Your state has its own sugar-daddy, the US government.

By MamiyaOtaru on 8/1/2008 8:44:34 PM , Rating: 2
"the papers I read from Europe all treat nationalism as a dirty, ignorant thing."

No kidding. I remember reading thoughts from a bunch of Spaniards who regretted Spain winning the World Cup because of all the nationalist feelings that came to the surface.

“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents." -- Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith
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