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August 8, 2007

One Year to Beijing Olympics

Crowds gathered in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square today for fireworks, music and dance celebrations—exactly one year from the day that China hosts the 2008 Olympics—amid concerns that the government is cracking down on potentially “embarrassing” behaviors in the face of international scrutiny.

Chinese officials have been building venues for the games, new subway lines and skyscrapers to prepare the city. Smog-clearing initiatives, including plans to close factories for three months next year, and campaigns to encourage drivers to stay off the road, are welcomed widely. But other preparations, in the form of blatant crackdowns against social and political dissidence, have human rights groups up in arms. About a dozen foreign journalists were detained by police on Monday for covering a protest in Beijing over the harassment, jailing and detainment of writers and members of the media. And the government banned a meeting of 50 Chinese and foreign AIDS activists that was scheduled to take place early this month in Guangzhou.

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