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China takes pre-emptive action against dissidents

China takes pre-emptive action against dissidents

Author: Saibal Dasgupta
Publication: The Times of India
Date: September 23, 2007

Chinese authorities have clamped down on "mass activities" to avoid possible disturbances during the Olympic Games next year.

Premier Wen Jiabao has signed a set of 'Regulations on Management of Large-scale Mass Activities' that outline a range of strict security measures to control events involving more than 1,000 people. Anyone wishing to organise a mass event of any type would require to obtain the approval of the security department 20 days in advance, the new rules say. Events listed for the purpose include sports, concerts, exhibitions, fairs, and firework displays.

Several observers feel the government's move is significant because the Olympics might be used as a platform by political dissidents. The observers say the government is also wary of the involvement of foreign organisations; recent incidents such as the unfurling of 'Save Tibet' flags at the Great Wall and Mount Everest indicate foreign backing of dissidents. The Chinese leadership also fears that peasant leaders may join the dissidents in creating rouble during the Olympics.

More than 14,000 large-scale mass activities of various kinds take place in China every year in which about 300 million people participate. A source in the government said such events often give an opportunity to "criminals" to "cause disturbances".

Violators of the new rules would face stiff penalties ranging from $1,330 to $6,670. And anyone changing the time, venue, content or scale of activities permitted by security organs will be fined between $1,330 and $6,670.

In another move, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television has ordered TV networks to remove cash cow programmes like 'My Hero' and 'Super Girl' from prime time. It has also outlawed voting on television programmes over the internet and mobile phones. "Some shows have slid into low taste in terms of program design, selection of judges, and performances of contestants," the official censor said in a statement.

The censor is trying to ensure that TV shows do not come in the way of the popularity of Olympic stars at a time when China is gearing up to take the lead in terms of gold medals.

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