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3 Olympic 'Protest Pens' Planned for Beijing Parks

That law requires that requests be made five days in advance and bars applications that harm the country's unity, sovereignty and integrity. Applications advocating separatism and applicants who cannot prove permanent or long-term residency are forbidden, apparently ruling out protests by pro-Tibet groups or evictees and homeless petitioners.

Despite the restrictions, several Beijing-based rights lawyers said they took hope from the announcement and are planning to test it immediately, even if it is unclear who might be allowed to apply and how.

Jill Savitt, executive director of Dream for Darfur, was less optimistic. "Unless the media will be there, too, I don't think you'll see too many protesters. Advocates will be where reporters are, to make sure their voices are heard," she said.

Liu Xiaobao, a dissident writer in Beijing who was recently detained briefly by police, called the protest pens a move to preempt criticism of China's human rights record.

"It's neither a fake show nor a sign of progress," Liu said. "It's just a temporary measure to deal with the possibility that many foreigners who come for the Olympics might want to protest."

Researchers Zhang Jie and Liu Liu contributed to this report.

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