Covering the Olympics Behind the Great Firewall

I didn’t catch this last month, but enjoyed reading the Talk to the Newsroom where the Times’ two Olympics editors answered questions. Truth be told, I enjoy this feature immensely, but it was particularly interesting to see the sorts of questions readers asked about covering the Olympics.

Flash forward a month and the Times ran a worthwhile and fairly critical story of how the Chinese government has walled off “undesirable” areas of Beijing so Olympic visitors can’t see them. The story is balanced, though I tend to think the situation in China is worse for the average citizen than we know.

First, a Chinese official comments:

A planning official, Zhi Wenguang, said, “We extended an existing wall to improve the overall environment for Olympic events.”

That, of course, is quite a bit of Doublespeak (and interestingly until I read that Wiki entry I thought Orwell coined the term). The view of local business owners seems more accurate:

Now a wall conceals a little cove of entrepreneurship where several
migrant families sell socks, book bags, pants, noodles and shish kebabs
cooked in a spicy soup. One family behind the wall sells ice cream,
popsicles and cold drinks from a refrigerator on wheels.

Zhao
Fengxia, a neighbor who owns three shops, said she believed that
officials and developers were using Olympic beautification as a pretext
to strangle their business and put pressure on them to leave.

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