BEIJING – China might bar live television broadcasts from Tiananmen Square during the Beijing Olympics, apparently unnerved by the recent outburst of unrest among Tibetans and fearful of protests in the heart of the Chinese capital.
A ban on live broadcasts would disrupt the plans of NBC and other major international networks, who have paid hundreds of millions of dollars to broadcast the Aug. 8-24 games and are counting on eye-pleasing live shots from the iconic square.
Officials at NBC refused to comment.
The rethinking of Beijing’s earlier promise to broadcasters comes as the government has poured troops into Tibetan areas wracked by anti-government protests this month and stepped up security in cities, airports and entertainment venues far from the unrest.
In another sign of the government’s unease, 400 American Boy Scouts who had been promised they could march onto the field following a March 15 exhibition game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres were prevented from doing so by police.
“It was never specifically mentioned to me it was because of Tibet that there were extra controls, but there were all these changes at the last minute,” said a person involved in the Major League Baseball event who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The communist government’s resorting to heavy-handed measures runs the risk of undermining Beijing’s pledge to the International Olympic Committee that the games would promote greater openness in what a generation ago was still an isolated China.
If still in place by the games, they could alienate the half-million foreigners expected at the games.
Like the Olympics, live broadcasts from Tiananmen Square were meant to showcase a friendly, confident China – one that had put behind it the deadly 1989 military assault on democracy demonstrators in the vast plaza that remains a defining image for many foreigners.