An excerpt from an IOC-BOGOC press conference held today was posted on chinamediablog.com. In it, reporter Alex Thompson asks an IOC spokeswoman five times whether the IOC is “embarrassed” about Beijing’s performance with regard to human rights promises.
In the interest of fairness, we’d like to excerpt the response of Beijing Olympic Committee secretary Wang Wei:
I think I’ll add something to Giselle’s answer. I was the secretary general of the bidding committee. I was confronted with many questions about the opening up and reform of China. And I did say that the Olympic Games coming to China will help China to open up further and to reform better. And the facts show after 30 years of reform, China has developed greatly. People enjoy more freedom. People enjoy more wealth, have a lot to say. And people’s welfare and people’s economic situation are improved a lot. So everybody can see that. Olympic Games are a good platform. Everybody I see who comes to China for the first time will say to me, China is so different from what they read, what they saw in films and papers. People are so friendly. People (are) leading a good life. Everybody is happy. People are optimistic about their own future. That’s a fact. Of course, there are exceptions, like in any other country. Some people are not satisfied, that is true. But we need to take the legal procedures to resolve their own issues, their problems. We cannot allow the country (to fall) into chaos.
So I think we welcome people coming to China to celebrate the Olympic Games with us, to enjoy the festivities with us. Of course, we also welcome suggestions, constructive advice from all the people, all the kind people. And, uh, I think a few, a very few, people come here to be critical, to dig into the small details, to find fault with that. That does not mean we are not fulfilling our promise. So I think the whole country can see how China is progressing, how China is genuinely welcoming the world to China to enjoy everything with us…
I do think that the person-to-person contacts that will emerge during the Olympics are an enormous benefit. Even Bejing’s taxi drivers are learning English in order to accomodate foreign visitors (if only New York’s could do the same!).
Reading between the lines, at least Mr. Wang is being honest the supposed tradeoffs involved: after raising the question of increased openness and reform, China’s tremendous development over the past thirty years (and which continues at a rate of roughly 10% per year in GDP) is cited. And of course, the prospect of chaos, were China’s society to rapidly open, is raised.
As we wrote in a few comments on other sites, if the American print media and foreign journalists weren’t covering stories like these, we wouldn’t read them: NBC is going to touch on these extra-Olympic, societal issues at all in the coming three weeks.