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Beijing's Olympic Protest Parks Quiet, Activists Deported, Journalists Detained

Beijing has designated three parks for protests during the Olympics, but they have yet to see a single approved demonstration. Meanwhile, Chinese authorities have continued to deport foreign activists and harass and detain foreign journalists. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

Chinese authorities say those wishing to air their grievances during the Olympics can use three selected "protest parks." That is-if the government approves. And so far, it appears nobody has been approved.

The parks, located far from the Olympic venues, have not seen a single protest or demonstration since the Beijing games opened. If not for the plain clothed security and investigating foreign journalists, the parks would look much like any other parks in Beijing.

On a sunny afternoon Mr. Fang is playing badminton in Ritan Park, one of the designated protest zones.

He says he has not seen any protests today, but he thinks Beijing hosting the Olympics gives everyone an opportunity. He says if you have an opinion or desire, protesting about it is normal. Fang says he also wants to ask what procedures one has to go through to protest and where he can apply.

China's public security bureau is responsible for approving protest applications. Officials there have not responded to repeated requests for information on how many applications they have received and how many, if any, have been approved.

Human Rights Watch says a Chinese activist who applied for permission to protest against the government has been taken into custody just for applying.

Several small groups of foreign activists have been detained and some deported for protesting without permission.

On Wednesday seven Americans and a Japanese national were detained after protesting against China's policy on Tibet near the main Olympics venue. At least a dozen "Free Tibet" and Christian activists have been deported for demonstrating around Tiananmen Square in the past week.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang says assemblies or demonstrations can only be carried out after they are approved. He says this is the Chinese government's persistent policy and the principle will be adhered to during the Olympics.

Police have also continued to detain and harass foreign journalists despite Beijing's promise of media freedom during the summer games.

Police roughed up and briefly detained a British journalist who tried to report on Wednesday's protest. They also confiscated his equipment.

Foreign journalists trying to cover alleged "terrorist" attacks against police and security in China's northwest Xinjiang province have reported being beaten, detained, and having their work erased by police.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang says local authorities have the right to take measures against journalists when faced with circumstances such as terrorism.