In Beijing, a Permit to Protest Only After Games End

Hong Kong resident Wang Wenjin returned to Beijing with others after being turned down the first time.
Hong Kong resident Wang Wenjin returned to Beijing with others after being turned down the first time. (By Jill Drew -- The Washington Post)
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By Jill Drew
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, August 19, 2008

BEIJING, Aug. 18 -- Wang Wenjin decided not to take no for an answer.

The first time Wang, a Hong Kong resident, sought a permit to protest in Beijing during the Olympic Games, public security officials in the capital turned him down, saying the group of investors he represented was not registered in mainland China.

So Wang returned to Beijing with five others Monday afternoon so that each of them could fill out individual applications. They want to hold a demonstration against local officials who allegedly swindled them.

"We want to protect our interests," Wang, 65, told reporters waiting outside Beijing's Exit-Entry Administration Office of the Public Security Bureau, where applicants who are not mainland Chinese residents file to apply for a protest permit. "We have been treated unfairly by local corrupted officials."

Although Beijing Olympics organizers announced last month that the city was setting up designated areas for public demonstrations during the Games, no one has successfully conducted a legally sanctioned protest. Indeed, at least two Chinese who applied for protest permits were detained by police. Human rights advocates say others who applied have been harassed and ordered to return home.

Foreigners have staged about half a dozen small, unapproved protests since the Games opened Aug. 8. Participants were quickly detained and deported.

Beijing police said Monday that they had received 77 applications so far this month from would-be protesters. It was the first time the Public Security Bureau acknowledged the number of applications received. Officials said the applications covered 149 people, including three foreigners.

No applications were approved. The state-run New China News Agency quoted a spokesman for the Public Security Bureau as saying 74 were withdrawn because "the problems those applicants contended for were properly addressed by relevant authorities or departments through consultations." Two applications were incomplete and one was rejected as violating the rules on public demonstrations.

Officials declined requests for further information.

Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, said he had no comment on why no protest applications had been approved.

Wang's grievance is over the sale of a jointly owned venture in China's Shanxi province. He said a court ruled that he had been shortchanged in the sale. But officials told him to "send troops" if he wanted to collect his judgment. The others in his group had individual problems with their investments in Chinese enterprises.

At the exit-entry office Monday, Wang and his group were escorted inside to apply for permits, as a group of about 10 reporters waited outside the building. At least three plainclothes police officers, including one hiding behind a tree, recorded video of the waiting reporters.

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