Olympic Inspectors Visit Beijing

Wednesday, February 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BEIJING (AP) — An important Olympic inspection of Beijing began Wednesday, with Chinese officials confident the country is ready to hold the 2008 Games and activists concerned about human rights.

Hein Verbruggen, head of the IOC inspection team, said its members were ``happy'' with the city's bid report. But he urged officials to be ready for questions on stadiums, transportation and air quality.

Human rights issues also figured on the first day of the four-day inspection, with a Hong Kong group saying police detained two Beijing dissidents.

The inspection is critical to Beijing's drive for the showcase event. New antigraft rules bar IOC members from visiting bid cities, so voting members will rely heavily on the inspection team's findings.

Beijing's rivals are Paris; Istanbul, Turkey; Osaka, Japan; and Toronto. The IOC will elect the host city on July 13 in Moscow.

In presentations at the Beijing Hotel, Chinese officials stressed what they called continuing progress.

``I hope you will not only see the fast-growing city of Beijing today, but also you will envisage what potential changes and progress the city will make during the next seven years,'' bid official Tu Mingde told inspectors.

A large TV screen showed the Temple of Heaven, a historic landmark, while dioramas showed the city and the Olympic Green, the park where venues and the Olympic Village for athletes will be built.

Beijing Mayor Liu Qi said his city has greatly improved in the seven years since it lost by two votes to Sydney, Australia, in its bid for the 2000 games.

``Today's Beijing is even more open, with dramatic changes in the economic prosperity of the city, continuous leapfrog improvements on the environment, the comprehensive development of democracy and the rule of law, and a more prosperous population,'' Liu said.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin assured inspectors of government support for the games, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Jiang said he hoped their report would express Beijing's ``warmth, confidence, qualifications and abilities,'' Xinhua said.

Though the Olympic inspectors are assessing technical aspects of Beijing's bid, activists have urged them to question officials about sweeping detention policies that allow police to clear city streets of beggars, prostitutes and street children.

The sister of a jailed democracy activist who had appealed to the inspectors to meet her said police warned her again Wednesday to ``keep quiet.''

Liu Jing said security agents were stationed outside her home and followed her to work, where Communist Party members also were watching her.

``There are even people following me to the toilet,'' she said. ``I'm not free to come and go.''

Police also removed Beijing dissidents He Depu and Yang Jing on Monday when inspectors began arriving and were holding them in separate guesthouses, the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.

Chinese officials told reporters not to talk to commission members before a news conference Saturday. But reporters were allowed to watch the inspectors as they visited a sports hall and to mingle with government officials and the inspectors as they toured the bid committee's offices Wednesday.

``So far, so good,'' the committee's secretary general, Wang Wei, said when asked how the first day had gone.

While bid officials pledged to accommodate media, they criticized ``irresponsible'' foreign media reports.

``We are not faking anything ... we only hope we can present a very truthful and real Beijing,'' bid spokesman Jiang Xiaoyu said.

Chinese and foreign media have reported on the extensive sprucing up of the city before the inspection, including spraying lawns downtown with green dye. Jiang said the city has been spraying lawns during holiday periods since 1998.