August 12th, 2008
05:42 PM ET

China falls short on Olympic promises, critics say

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/08/12/china.promises/art.beijing.stadium.gi.jpg caption="The National Stadium, known as the Bird's Nest, is shrouded in smog on opening day of the 2008 Olympics. "]

Chuck Hadad
AC360° Producer

It's a historic event taking place on an international stage that's been seven years and $40 billion in the making. Opening ceremonies last week of the 2008 Olympic Summer Games were lauded as the most spectacular in history, with pyrotechnics blasting from the top of Beijing, China's National Stadium and a synchronized fireworks display firing off across the capital.

What has been mostly absent from Beijing, however, are protests. Although a unified China is the image that country's government is eager to portray, many human rights groups allege that China has orchestrated a massive cover-up.

Beyond human rights, questions remain about whether China has kept its promises to the world to improve in two other major areas of reform: freedom of the press and pollution cleanup.

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Filed under: Chuck Hadad • Global 360° • Olympics
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Rena, Cologne Germany

    A lot of things go definetly wrong in this country – and it was no surprise that there would also be problems during the 2008 Olympics.

    Factories run low, little girls are not allowed to sing at the opening show, because they are "not cute enough", fake fireworks in the city – what's next?

    August 13, 2008 at 9:14 am |
  2. TesaP;Savannah, GA

    The real question is why are they even allowed to host the Olympics, this information about the country is not new.

    August 13, 2008 at 8:42 am |
  3. Chairman Mao

    Ya..ya..ya..China is the bad guy, the west is the angel...why keep talking about all these nonsense, what broken promise we all know the west have broken the most promises in the world. Who are those west sponsored NGO or activists???????? If the Olympic belong only to the west so what is the Olympic stand for to the WORLD??????????? It is as good as nothing to the World. Stop dreaming, west.

    August 13, 2008 at 2:53 am |
  4. Marlie:

    Mr.Hadad: China has done an absolutely splendid job on the Olympics. It has been precision plus. The problem is that it is growing and developing at such a rapid pace, it can't keep up with itself.

    August 13, 2008 at 2:02 am |
  5. Angela Krieger, Virginia

    Not to mention cheating on the gymnasts ages...

    August 13, 2008 at 12:50 am |
  6. Michael Suppaner, Malaysia/Austria

    The government of China does more than the the US government to get environmental pollution under control. New industrial projects have stricter emission regulations than any US state or the EU. Their problems are the decades old industrial facilities from Mao times, which cannot catch up with these regulations, as many industrial facilites in the US can't. But the government cannot close these factories. The average Chinese steel factory employs 50,000 people. Including their dependents 200,000 people are affected by the closure of one such "combinate". It still needs some time to get that solved. But the government is closing older plants in urban locations and provides the companies land outside the cities to re-build these factories – following the new strict regulations. The oh-so opressed people of China are getting wealthier, abandoning their bicyles and buying cars with catalyst systems. But with hundreds of cities with more than 1 million population the emission from vehicles can't be avoided. If China were still ruled by Mao style dictators, they could probably control that better. And the people wouldn't be able to buy all those cars. But the whole world wants them to be "free", which includes the freedom to buy a car. What does the whole world want now? A dictator ala Mao and forbid the people to buy cars so emissions can be kept low? Or democracy and freedom with all its environmental consequences?

    August 13, 2008 at 12:46 am |
  7. Ronnie, Dee

    Incredible, too much complaining and totally non-appreciative. We have only waited so long to meet with China, oh, how long should we wait? I think the presentation was very strong, amazing. Ah, the poor Chinese they are poor and not educated..(they smoke)!!!! Hello, I think the next move is going to be techno...or did you miss that? Of course, all the other nation's will jump on the EPA band-wagon, hopefully soon. Some without a Syd's death rate? Why is that? "Because they have so much room that all of their children can sleep in their own rooms?" Hum, run that by me again, I did not get that. I mean the Olympian's did not put enough time and effort in to this. Personally, I would not do any back-flips for them, would you? Ay, enjoy our future world leader's. Gosh, show some appreciation, WOW, did not know you had so many gold medal's-impressive. If you can't stand the fireworks-return to sender, ah, who is that? Oh, by the way, they don't have too many firework's on the Chinese New Years do they? No, they actually like our firework's better, we can really make a BANG. Hey, Critic's sit down and enjoy they show!!!

    August 13, 2008 at 12:41 am |
  8. Michael Suppaner, Malaysia/Austria

    Yes, give China full democracy. Let them elect a "Boris Jelzin of China" and let them start creating new independent nations. Independence for Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang! Some small civil wars, like now in Georgia, earlier in Chechnya, new poverty in provices where people are now comparably well taken care of. It's all far away. Doesn't hurt us. The fear of China becoming the strongest economy in the world could be abolished as well. Okay, minor collapses of world's stock markets, increased prices all over the world on goods we need for daily life are all worth to bear to give the poor people of China democracy. The figurehead dissidents of AI and some other NGOs will still be happy. The people of China, 99.5% of them, will NOT!

    August 13, 2008 at 12:33 am |
  9. Keith Perron, Taipei, ROC

    The PRC just wanted the games as a propaganda tool. What scared me after living 8 years in Beijing was looking at some of the posters the communist government used to promote the games to its own population. One located in Haidian area of Beijing said "Through the Military Power of The Communist Party Of China we will have a great games". What is scary is in 1936 the Nazi's in Germany also had a poster that read "The German Army will bring victory to the the Berlin Games".
    As far as I'm concerned the IOC is just a huge corrupt burocratic organization, just as bad as the UN.
    My question:
    How many people has the Chinese Government killed since 1949? How many have they kill between 1988 and 2008?
    You know the number is higher than the murders the Nazi's did in WW2. It seems the world forgets history.
    Ok some people will say the US does not have a good rights record. But I'm sorry when you put China next to the US, it makes the US look like Iceland in terms of human rights.

    August 12, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  10. Ken

    For Kate from AL, please go to Yahoo or Google and find out what Olympic is all about, why can't we accept a different coutry?

    August 12, 2008 at 10:59 pm |
  11. Annie Kate

    We were naive to expect China to change for the Olympics. Enjoy the games and perhaps the IOC will be more careful with whom they entrust the Olympics to in the future.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    August 12, 2008 at 9:41 pm |
  12. Heidi, Lou.Ky

    I completely agree with AgriChina did not deserved to host olympic games , on opening ceremony , on same day Russia ataced Georgia , Russia should have been sent home , but nothing happened , nobody has anything against chines people, but government have done so many things in past : Darfur , Sudan, Rwanda,,,

    August 12, 2008 at 9:22 pm |
  13. John N

    All other countries that have gone through the economic phase that China is now in had the same environmental issues historically, and it can't be expected that a country in an industrial boom to be able to have as good of air quality as current, post-industrial countries. While China may have not fulfilled some of its promises, the original terms were ones that everyone should have known it couldn't fulfill given it's economic stage. Once China has stabilized itself as a world power, environmental healing is the next obvious phase.

    August 12, 2008 at 9:18 pm |
  14. Jackie Rawlings

    It's a shame the US is using the Olympics to attack China. Yes the US has committed Human Rights Crimes but would rather just attack China.
    Notice how well China is doing with it's Economy and even making oil deals with Iraq while the Bush Administration is working how to cover up the crimes they have committed. Bush is looking like a fool and Rice is to busy on vacation to do her job. No World Leaders respects the Bush Administration and the Middle East is buying up as much of the USA as possible.

    August 12, 2008 at 9:15 pm |
  15. John Jay Higgenbottom

    As a patriotic and gun-loving American, I find this article a bit hypocritical. Though the People's Republic of China might not win the humanitarian award, the United States is not all that different from our communist neighbors across the Pacific. We talk about their pollution and smog, but lo and behold, the city of Los Angeles is infamous in its smog and air warnings; in fact, in 1984 weren't they worried about the weather too? And what about China's human rights record? What about "Gitmo?" or "Jena 6" or Columbine? Not to mention, African-Americans had to wait for 200 and something years to recieve CIVIL RIGHTS. Sure China's government is overbearing, but the people aren't complaining, and just because Tibet wants their freedom think about this way, when the Confederate States of America brokeaway, didn't we fight a civil war? I'm a flag-waving American as much as Joe Williams, but really when will we look at our contradictions first?

    August 12, 2008 at 9:15 pm |
  16. Lei

    I don't understand why the author is so picky about everything in China. Is USA a perfect world? Before you criticize China, you'd better check the facts in America. LA and NYC may have higher crime rate than Beijing and the pollution in LA is also very serious. Is the politics system in US perfect? Frankly the government in US highly represents the benefits of the rich people. George Bush is from a powerful family and I don't think he can be the president without the help from his dad. Chinese president Hu Jingtao is from a poor family in China and he works hard for his people. Please look at yourself in the mirror before crticize others. I think CNN is too biased on many issues regarding China. I don't understand why you people are so hostile to China.

    August 12, 2008 at 8:26 pm |
  17. Argi

    WOW – big surprise China did not keep their promises.... The Olympic commitee had their heads in the sand – or somewhere else..
    China did not and does not deserve the honor of hosting the games.

    August 12, 2008 at 8:21 pm |
  18. lampe

    China, want's to fake at being unified, just like The DNC, would have Democratics believe, that we should all get behind and support Obama. Two great big liars in my book.

    August 12, 2008 at 8:11 pm |
  19. David Kirkpatrick

    Dear Mr. Hadad,
    Your article falls short of common sense. Stop relying on the mountains of allegations built on other allegations and false summaries by NGO’s that have no other interest than bashing China to prop up their existence. “Some say”, “it is said”, “critics say”. You can start off any cheap shot of any opinion with that stuff. Please stick to facts to make a realistic evaluation of China and what it’s accomplished. China rightly deserves some criticism but what CNN and the rest of the crew come up with for portrayals of China is very misleading, mostly inaccurate, and seldom if ever reporting from primary knowledge about anything when it comes to China. Stop China bashing.
    At least you got the country right this time.

    August 12, 2008 at 8:00 pm |
  20. perko

    Maybe the world's expectations were just too high.

    I was there the first few weeks of July, a month before the start of the Olympic Games, saw a lot of Wu Jing Special Forces training, as well as lots of security, even in residential neighborhoods. I felt very safe there, and the police were constantly rounding up the mentally ill, and I feel badly for the family that was attacked by the emotionally disturbed person at that historical tourist attraction. That's more likely to happen in LA or NYC than in Beijing. I think the stress of the event is making people snap.

    Mostly everyone still smokes there. I tried to explain to the smokers that I met that only the uneducated or lower class smokes now. Some places have nonsmoking areas, not many. Went to a spa and they even included a cigarette in with their treatment package! JiuHua Spa.

    Residents of Beijing have to make sacrifices: not driving on certain days, keeping their air conditioning off so that these huge Olympic venues can be powered. Summer in Beijing is sultry: it's hot, humid, gritty, pollution is awful, think of LA's inland empire, add cigarettes and spitting, another national pasttime.

    Is China ready for the Olympics?
    My personal observation a month prior to the games:
    At the Official State Sanctioned Olympic Gift Store, you could purchase Olympic Torch Cigarette Lighters and Bird's Nest National Stadium Ashtrays.

    Well, at least they put all of those pretty planters around town. If you can't be "green" and centered on a healthy lifestyle, at least they're keeping up appearances.

    August 12, 2008 at 7:38 pm |
  21. Yangkang

    As other readers, I got the conclusion: this author has a dirty mouth.

    August 12, 2008 at 7:27 pm |
  22. Matthew

    I think it is good America wants to play big brother, but I think big brother needs to clean its own house first. Hopefully, a black man running for office isn't being used as a ploy to get other countries in line with a tricky democracy. What has to be respected for countries like China is is if they use a mirror before they address themselves publicly. This "white" house of America has potential, but I think it needs to clean its media pollution.

    August 12, 2008 at 7:13 pm |
  23. JC- Los Angeles

    Freedom of the press and pollution cleanup? Don't we face the same challenges here at home?

    After eight horrid years of the Bush regime, with an increasingly biased mainstream media and with gas guzzlers aplenty, I'd say we're doing a bang up job emulating China.

    August 12, 2008 at 7:05 pm |
  24. aaronwu

    who will trust these government sponsored NGO?

    August 12, 2008 at 6:22 pm |