BEIJING China's announcement that it will permit some protests at next month's Olympic Games met with skepticism Wednesday from activists who doubt the government will grant the permits they need to demonstrate.
Liu Shaowu, director of security for the Beijing Olympic organizing committee, gave the first public confirmation that protests would be allowed during the Games being held Aug. 8-24.
He named three city parks to be set up as "demonstration areas" miles away from where most Olympic events and medal ceremonies will take place.
"As long as the demonstration has been approved, China's police will protect the demonstrators' legal rights according to the law," Liu said.
Getting that approval, however, is a big question. Demonstrators must submit a detailed application to local police five days ahead of time.
Writer and dissident Liu Xiaobo said only "a few patriotic marches" have been approved in recent years. The veteran of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy demonstrations dismissed the announcement as "just a temporary measure to reduce the growing international criticism of China."
"If anyone protests outside these venues, the police can use any measures to stop them by referring to these rules," he said.
The government says the Games could be sabotaged by Tibet supporters or Muslim separatists.
Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong said the "obstacles and deterrents are so high as to negate the right to demonstrate."
Corralling demonstrators isn't new. Such sites were set up for previous Olympics and are routine at the U.S. political party conventions.
Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said China has "failed to honor" commitments it made prior to the Olympics to allow dissidents to express their views.