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Published: Tuesday, 6/3/2008

China lists rules for Olympics visitors

ASSOCIATED PRESS

BEIJING - Foreigners attending the Beijing Olympics better behave - or else.

The Beijing Olympic organizing committee issued a stern, nine-page document yesterday that covers 57 topics.

Written in Chinese only and posted on the official Web site, the guide covers everything from a ban on sleeping outdoors to the need for government permission to stage a protest.

Visitors also should know:

•Those with "mental diseases" or contagious conditions will be barred.

•Some parts of the country are closed to visitors - one of them is Tibet.

•Olympic tickets are no guarantee of a visa to enter China.

Fearing protests during the Aug. 8-24 Olympics, China's authoritarian government has tightened controls on visas and residence permits for foreigners. It has also promised a massive security presence at the games, which may include undercover agents dressed as volunteers.

The guide said Olympic ticket holders "still need to visit China embassies and consulates and apply for visas according to the related rules."

The government hopes to keep out activists and students who might stage pro-Tibet rallies. It also fears protests over China's oil and arms trade with Sudan, and any disquiet from predominantly Muslim regions in western China.

"In order to hold any public gathering, parade, or protest the organizer must apply with the local police authorities. No such activity can be held unless a permit is given. Any illegal gatherings, parades, and protests and refusal to comply are subject to administrative punishments or criminal prosecution," the rules state.

The document warns against the display of insulting slogans or banners at any sports venue. It forbids any religious or political banner at an Olympic venue that "disturbs the public order."

The guidelines seem to clash with a pledge made two months ago by International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, who said athletes could exercise freedom of speech in China. He asked that athletes refrain from making political statements at Olympics venues.

For months Chinese authorities denied there had been any change to visa regulations, but recently acknowledged that rules had been amended.

The changes may have little effect on some of the 500,000 foreigners expected to visit for the Olympics, many of whom will come on package tours with visas already arranged.

The rules bar entry to smugglers, prostitutes, and those with "mental diseases" or contagious conditions. The guide also spells out items that cannot be brought into the country, including weapons, imitation weapons, explosives, counterfeit currency, drugs, and poisons.



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