Another foreign journalist detained in China

Officials defend lip-synch decision

Chinese officials defended their decision to pass off the voice of a 7-year-old songbird as that of another girl at the Olympic opening ceremony, calling it a simple casting choice. Critics said it was a step too far in China's obsession with hosting the perfect Olympic Games. Beijing organizers of the Games faced tough criticism Wednesday after a whistle-blower revealed the switch.

Beijing officials on Wednesday said the artistic directors were free to cast whomever they saw fit. "There were a number of candidates to sing that song, and at the end of the day the artistic directors picked the best voice and the best performer," said Beijing organizing committee spokesman Sun Weide.

BEIJING — As Beijing police scrambled Wednesday afternoon to whisk away a group of Free Tibet protesters near Olympic Park, they also detained and roughed up a British reporter covering the demonstration.

"I was shouting, 'I'm a British journalist!' "John Ray, a correspondent for Britain's Independent Television News, said later. But police dragged Ray into the back of a nearby restaurant and later pushed him into a police van. "It was very forceful, very rough," he said.

The incident is the latest example of a foreign journalist being blocked from reporting in China, despite promises by the government and Olympic officials that the news media would be free to operate during the Games. Several journalists attempting to cover small protests around Beijing have been harassed, photographed and manhandled.

Ray's Olympic credentials were in his pocket, but he could not reach them because police had pinned his arms behind him, "one guy holding each arm," he said. The officers pulled off Ray's shoes, and when he tried to struggle away, they kicked his legs, tripping him.

Five or six officers then "frog-marched" Ray to a police van, he said, and pushed him into it, throwing in a yellow cloth behind him before they slammed the doors. His hands now free, Ray fished out his Olympic credentials from his pocket. He showed an officer his credentials and, after about 20 minutes, was released.

"One of our Chinese staff asked why they arrested me, and an officer said, 'Didn't you see? He tried to unfurl that banner,' " pointing to the yellow cloth they had thrown into the van.

"That is categorically untrue," Ray said. "I was there merely to report, not to take part in anything. I didn't have a banner. I didn't have a T-shirt."

The information office of the Beijing Public Security Bureau did not respond to questions about Ray's detention. It instead released a statement about the protest, saying eight foreigners who had been "conducting activities against Chinese law" were stopped by police on patrol. It said police would cancel their tourist visas and accompany them until they left the country.

The protest was organized by Students for a Free Tibet, which has staged small demonstrations in Beijing despite tight security.

Officials defend lip-synch decision

Chinese officials defended their decision to pass off the voice of a 7-year-old songbird as that of another girl at the Olympic opening ceremony, calling it a simple casting choice. Critics said it was a step too far in China's obsession with the perfect Olympic Games. Beijing organizers of the games faced tough criticism Wednesday after a whistleblower revealed the switch.

Beijing officials on Wednesday defended said the artistic directors could cast whoever they saw fit. "There were a number of candidates to sing that song and at the end of the day the artistic directors picked the best voice and the best performer," Beijing organizing committee spokesman Sun Weide said.

Another foreign journalist detained in China 08/13/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 11:27am]

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