Overseas journalists get Asiad pledge

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Organizers of the upcoming Asian Games pledged on Monday to ensure the freedom of overseas journalists to conduct interviews during the major sporting event.

Normal newsgathering activities will be guaranteed and protected during the 16th Asian Games and the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Para Games for disabled Asian athletes, said Xu Ruisheng, deputy mayor of Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province.

"Overseas reporters will be free to interview athletes, coaches, officials and residents if they abide by relevant Chinese laws and rules and the regulations of the Olympic Council of Asia during the upcoming Asian Games," Xu told a press conference.

His remarks came two days before the 100-day countdown to the Games, which will run from Nov 12 to 27.

The Chinese government adopted a more relaxed regulation on overseas media on Jan 1, 2007, lifting many restrictions on journalists' reportage during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The regulation was formalized in October 2008, making it easier for overseas journalists to conduct interviews.

A total of 10,000 journalists, including more than 3,000 from overseas, are expected to cover the Guangzhou event this year.

An employee from the Guangzhou bureau of Japan's Nikkei Inc said the local government has provided "plenty of help" to foreign media in the past months.

"As the Asian Games draw near, relevant departments and officials have been actively contacting me for newsgathering and interviews," said the employee, who did not want to be named.

"They have provided me with enough materials and pointers for interviews in the past days, and the service is good," the employee told China Daily.

But a number of other reporters said that more could be done for the Asiad coverage.

"I hope the local government further improves its service and allows foreign media to cover negative and controversial social issues in the following months," Chris Lam Kin-seng, Guangzhou bureau chief of Hong Kong I-Cable News Limited, told China Daily.

Xu Ruisheng, who is also executive deputy director of the organizing committee of the 16th Asian Games, also said relevant departments will "seriously consider the applications for rally and protest in line with laws, regulations and relevant procedures".

He urged rally and protest organizers to apply for approvals before they hold mass protests.

Late last year, the organizing committee promised to set up special protest zones in the city's Panyu district, where the Asian Games Town (AGT) is located, for protesters to air their grievances during the Games.

The AGT will be home to athletes, coaches, media and staff during the sports gala.

"But protesters have to abide by Chinese laws and relevant regulations when staging demonstrations," said an official from the security department of the Games organizing committee who did not want to be named.

Under Chinese law, individuals or groups holding a protest must first obtain approval from the police.

The latest announcement came after a number of illegal rallies in the southern metropolis in the past two weeks.

Hundreds of residents in Guangzhou rallied on Sunday, calling on authorities to preserve their local dialect, Cantonese.

It was the second such demonstration held by Guangzhou citizens, mostly young people, since last weekend, after a local political advisory body proposed early last month that Guangzhou TV broadcast more of its news programs in Mandarin or launch a new Mandarin channel.

Citizens in Guangzhou worried that their dialect would be abolished in the promotion of Mandarin.

Sunday's rally took place in People's Park outside the municipal government's compound and police officers were deployed to maintain order.

The rally began at about 2 pm and lasted about two and a half hours.

Guangzhou police said the rally was illegal because the police never received an application for the rally before it was organized.

The police posted a statement on the department's website, saying that they would "punish those who were unreasonable and created trouble".

The organizer of a similar protest last week was reportedly detained for several days.

Asiad organizers have estimated they will need to arrange accommodation for about 40,000 registered personnel and guests from 45 countries and regions during the upcoming event.

The visitors include 14,700 athletes and their accompanying coaches and officials, more than 6,300 technical officials, about 10,000 media staff and about 8,100 guests from home and abroad.

About 3 million tourists and visitors from home and abroad are also expected to arrive in Guangzhou to watch the competitions during the Games.

Guangzhou is the second Chinese mainland city to host the Asian Games after Beijing in 1990.

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