In a sweeping liberalization of its reporting rules, China Friday
suspended decades-old restrictions on foreign journalists in the run-
up to the 2008 Olympic Games.
The new regulations, allowing foreign reporters to travel
throughout the country and to interview people without prior
official permission, are clearly aimed at keeping the government's
promise to the International Olympic Committee that it would allow
free reporting during and before the 2008 games.
Foreign correspondents in China greeted the news with cautious
optimism. "This is a welcome step," says Melinda Liu, president of
the Foreign Correspondents Club of China and Beijing bureau chief
for Newsweek magazine. "The proof of how valuable the new
regulations will be will depend on their implementation, however,"
she adds. "The biggest concern is still the [authorities'] culture
of nontransparency and the habit of not being open to foreign or any
The strength of that culture is clearly evident in an official
police language-training manual obtained by the Monitor. It is being
used to teach Beijing policemen the English phrases they might need
when dealing with Olympic visitors.
Published by China's Public Security Bureau University and the
Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, "Olympic Security English"
contains a practice dialogue entitled, "How to Stop Illegal News
The dialogue teaches policemen the English phrases they would
need to detain a foreign reporter found talking to a Chinese citizen
about Falun Gong, an outlawed spiritual movement.
Beijing city patrolmen are given the manual as part of a home
study program according to one city police officer who asked not to
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao, announcing the new
regulations at a press conference, would not say whether the manual
would be withdrawn in light of the decree promulgated Friday in the
name of Premier Wen Jiabao.
He did say, however, that his ministry would "brief relevant
domestic agencies and departments on the new regulations and ask
them to abide by them. We will ensure that they are duly and
Mr. Liu also pledged that foreign reporters' new freedoms would
not be limited to the Olympic Games and their preparation, although
the decree specifies that the regulations apply to "reporting
activities carried out by foreign journalists covering the Beijing
Olympic Games and related matters."
"Foreign journalists will not limit their reporting activities to
the Games themselves," Liu acknowledged. "They will also cover
politics, science, technology, culture, and the economy. The
'related matters' ... expands the areas on which foreign journalists
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International, which has long
called on the Chinese authorities to lift restrictions on press
freedom, describes the new rules as "interesting" but complains that
they do "not go far enough," according to spokeswoman Saria Rees-