BEIJING — The United States said Sunday it was disappointed that the Olympics had not brought more "openness and tolerance" in China as the Games ended and eight American activists were deported during closing ceremonies.
The blunt U.S. criticism — and China's harsher treatment of foreign activists — came at the end of 17 days of Olympic competition that generally went smoothly for Chinese organizers who had been nervous about security and protests.
No rallies were held throughout the entire Olympics in three parks designated as protest zones after Chinese officials declined to issue permits to 77 applicants, and detained some of them. But activists, most of them foreigners, staged small illegal demonstrations near Olympic venues and at Beijing landmarks.
The foreigners, for the most part, unveiled "Free Tibet" banners before being seized by security officials, hustled into cars and taken away to be put on flights out of China.
A handful of journalists trying to cover the protests were roughed up by authorities, then released. There were also tensions with the media over China restricting access to the Internet.
Beijing had promised the media freedom to report the Games and announced the protest parks as part of efforts to address criticism that China should not have been awarded the Games because of its human rights record and tight controls on internal dissent.
The White House said in a statement that eight Americans — James Powderly, Brian Conley, Jeffrey Rae, Jeff Goldin, Michael Liss, Tom Grant, Jeremy Wells and John Watterberg — were deported by Chinese authorities Sunday night on a China Air flight to Los Angeles.
Ambassador Clark Randt Jr. had pressed the Chinese government Saturday to immediately release the eight. "We encourage the government of China to demonstrate respect for human rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of religion, of all people during the Olympic Games and beyond," a U.S. Embassy statement said Sunday. "We are disappointed that China has not used the occasion of the Olympics to demonstrate greater tolerance and openness."
In his wrapup news conference Sunday, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said the Games had helped open up China but expressed surprise that no permission had been granted for any protests.
The IOC was told it was a matter of Chinese law.
"The International Olympic Committee is not a sovereign organization," Rogge said. "We have to respect Chinese law."