BEIJING, August 1 – Chinese President Hu Jintao said Friday efforts to politicise the Beijing Games would not work, while Olympic organisers tried to relieve pressure by apparently lifting some Internet curbs.
In a rare 70-minute group interview with foreign reporters exactly one week ahead of the Games, Hu said politicising the Olympics was not the way to address issues on which there were disagreements.
"It’s only inevitable that people from different countries and regions of the world don’t see eye to eye on certain issues," Hu said, without specifying which issues he was referring to.
"I don’t think politicising the Olympic Games will do any good to address these issues. It runs counter to the Olympic spirit and also to the shared aspirations of the people of the world."
With 20,000 journalists arriving in China to cover the Games, China is facing unprecedented scrutiny, and it is anxious that the reporters focus on the sporting events rather than delve into controversial political issues.
Hu told the more than 20 foreign correspondents that while China welcomed foreign journalists both during and after the Olympic Games, they should abide by Chinese laws.
"As always we will continue to provide facilities for foreign journalists coming to China to report," Hu said.
"Of course, we also hope the foreign reporters will abide by Chinese laws and regulations. We also hope you will provide objective reports of what you see here."
Hu also sought to alleviate concerns about China’s rise as a world power, saying the nation posed no threat to the rest of the world and the Olympics would showcase the country’s spirit.
"By hosting the Beijing Games we will show the world that the Chinese people are a peace-loving nation," Hu said.
"For a long time China has pursued a military policy that is defensive in nature. It will never seek hegemonism. China’s development will in no way affect or threaten the interests of others."
Meanwhile, following a week of controversy after China backtracked on a pledge to allow foreign reporters covering the Games complete access to the Internet, authorities appeared to give some ground.
China on Friday allowed media at the Olympic press centre access to Amnesty International’s website and a small number of other previously censored sites, but a wide array of others remained blocked.
The previously blocked websites of media watchdog Reporters Without Borders and German broadcaster Deutsche Welle were also accessible, according to an AFP reporter.
However many other sites remained blocked, including those linked to Chinese dissidents, the outlawed Falungong spiritual movement, the Ticapitalfmnewn government-in-exile and ones with information on the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Friday he would raise concerns about China’s Internet censorship for foreign reporters covering the Olympics when he attends the opening ceremony next week.
Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking Sinophile who worked as a diplomat in Beijing before entering politics, said he would tell the Chinese they had nothing to fear from an unfettered Internet.
"I think it’s the right thing to do," Rudd told commercial radio.