Friday, August 22, 2008

The Reason The Chinese Fear A Free Press

Word came out last night that the International Olympic Committee is going to investigate whether the Chinese are using underage gymnasts. According to Olympic rules, gymnasts must turn 16 years of age before the end of the Olympic year. Rumors have been rampant that at least three of the girls on the team are under 16 which would cause the Olympic committee to rescind the medals they won.

While I realize that the issue of whether the girls on the Chinese Olympic team is not the most pressing issue of the world today. In fact, it could be argued that it is not even the most important story of the Olympics. It does offer an interesting insight on why China fears an open and free press.

China, in the continuation of long standing policy, has gone to great lengths during the Olympics to keep a tight rein on the media in the country. There has been stories of bugging hotel rooms, limiting access to areas, censoring outgoing information on the internet, to going as far as arresting reporters trying to cover protests.

This gymnastics story gives a small example of why China fears a free press. In the past the government was able to keep something like this hidden from the public and continue with their business as usual, no danger of anyone questioning what they do.

This gymnastics story is really nothing more than old news. It has always been assumed that countries, especially communists countries like China, cheat with their Olympic athletes. Since I was a child I have heard stories about doping, professional athletes (way before they were allowed), cooperative judges, etc.

Further, lest anyone think I am being unfair, I realize other countries have been caught cheating. Most recently the 2000 US men’s 1600 meter relay team was stripped of it’s gold medal because Antonio Pettigrew admitted to doping. There is one very big difference here though. The US team was caught and had to return their medals because of our free press. The trial in which he admitted his guilt was public and freely reported by the media. The transgression was revealed in the media and was brought to the attention of the IOC, which stripped the medal. Does anyone reading this think the same would have happened in China? Would they have a public trial in which the transgression was reported by the press? Would there have been any trial at all? Would the Chinese government see any reason at all to question the way the medal was won? The answer to all is a resounding NO.

The gymnastics story would have, and has been until now, buried by the Chinese government with no openness, no attempt to decide if they are playing by the rules. The story only came to light because of the presence of foreign journalists who, once their story is in the press of their own country, does not have to abide by the oppressive media rules in place in China. I would even put forth he notion that it is not overly important if the story is true or not, what’s relevant here is that the Chinese are finally having to bear the same scrutiny as most of the rest of the world does.

So, this may not be the most earth shattering news of the day but it does give us a little hint as to why the Chinese fear a free press. I think though that they may want to get used to it. With the internet and the accessibility of easier travel and communications, the Chinese government may be looking at their future.


MK said...

The difference between an America and China is you see the good and the bad from America, it's all out there in the open. China on the other hand didn't even tell its citizens about minor accidents that happened in the Olympics. I can't even fathom that kind of paranoia. If the Chinese have been cheating, i hope they get caught and are stripped of their medals. it's the right thing.

kevin said...

China fears freedom in general. All this talk about a 'New China' is laughable. The singers are lip syncing, the gymnasts are underage, the homeless and dissidents are thrown into torture camps. The only thing that's changed since the days of Mao is now they are using us as trade partners to rebuild their military.

Always On Watch said...

My hairdresser is from Vietnam. She believes that the tiniest of the Chinese gymnasts couldn't be over 12 years of age because the little tyke shows zero signs of pubescent development.

I hope that our American gymnasts will get bumped up in the medals standing. I'd love to see Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson recognized as the superior athletes they are.

Our young ladies did beautifully, and some of the scoring was very subjective anyway.

DD2 aka Debonair Dude said...

If we don't stop this Olympic fraud nonsense now. It's going to ruin the Olympics forever.
How long will the IOC be able to keep a lid on this scandal?

cube said...

I'm not in favor of the age rule in gymnastics myself. If you can pull off the routine, then go for it. That being said, if the rules are such that you can't use an athlete under 16, then those are the rules. The host country of the Orympics has clearly violated these rules. Would they have had a Gold Medal team had they scrapped the youngsters? I think not.

Chuck said...

mk and AOW, the word is they will lose their medals if the charges are true. I'm not holding my breath yet.

Kevin, I don't think they have fooled too many people as of yet with their "new China"

dd2, I've believed through the years that IOC has managed to keep the lid on a lot of incidents, mostly for self-preservation.

cube, I am in favor of the age rule, mostly because I don't like seeing the really small girls exploited. But I agree this is irrelevant if the rule is such, it should be followed, agree or not.

Obob said...

when the games end, the whitewash will go in the drain. The government will fill up the re-education camps (especially the pesky seventy year olds.)
Communism can nevr exist with a free press. It would deviate from the collective goal of unity and state. The risk is to great of a single weed getting through the cracks and eroding the fragile walls of tyranny. Of course those walls tend to be guarded with machine guns.

Nikki said...

My husband and I have been saying this all along as he lived in Hong King for a while. Asian women are indeed smaller than American women, or should I say girls, but these girls look extremely young...and I wonder if they are are bred. We all know they kill any non-male babies. Female babies really could only be kept alive for something like this. Its so strange to think this still goes on in this day and age. It will be interesting to see this unfold. great read. :)N

Nikki said...

hahaha I said Hong King! well you know it was Hong :)N

Brooke said...

I'm not sure what can be done; the IOC will request proof of age and China will provide them with forged documents.

I agree with AOW. Some of the Chinese gymnasts look like LITTLE GIRLS. Regular Chinese women don't look like that...

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

While I realize that the issue of whether the girls on the Chinese Olympic team is not the most pressing issue of the world today. In fact, it could be argued that it is not even the most important story of the Olympics. It does offer an interesting insight on why China fears an open and free press.

That really sums it up nicely. And Cube reflects my feelings, perfectly.

Z said...

Some of the high jump and track/field women looked like men, too, but........!!

I haven't shared what I've been told's in the German press about doping because I didn't want to be a downer during the Olymipcs, but it's incredible. "testing is TWO YEARS behind the new drugs" according to one of the most 'celebrated' dealers in the world.

Did you all know those 56 different ethnicities the Chinese celebrated as they corralled them around the opening ceremony ring were all HAN CHINESE in fake country costumes? Didn't you blog on that, Chuck? I can't remember. That's the truth, but it barely made it out of China.

Did you know one lovely 26 yr old dancer, so good she was the only one to solo in the opening ceremonies, was paralyzed in a fall 12 days before the opening, in rehearsals? That wasn't mentioned in the Chinese news that night, either. What a 'open'.

Chuck said...

obob, I agree but I think these days are numbered for China

nikki, I don't know about breeding but I do believe they are raised to be little performers for the state.

wordsmith, thanks

z, I read about the drug testing somewhere. This is actually not that unusual because unfortunately governments (or quasi-governmental like the IOC) often are unwilling to spend the money it takes to keep up. Also, the drug dealers have the natural advantage because they release the drug and investigators have to spend time even discovering the drug before they can test for it.

Another depressing example:

Most people probably don't know this but there is not a practical test for the date rape drug, GHB, so a lot of these guys go free because we cannot test for it.