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Daily Archives: August 3, 2008

Rogge says no deal with Beijing on Internet censorship

 Image International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge made no deal with Beijing Olympic organisers over Internet censorship, a senior IOC official said yesterday.
Kevan Gosper, an IOC executive board member, said he had been personally assured in a meeting with Rogge that no deal to block controversial websites had ever been agreed.
"We were able to clarify at a most senior level … there was absolutely no shift that had occurred," Gosper told reporters, referring to a long-held IOC policy that media should be given full access to report the Games.
Gosper said he met with Rogge after the IOC president had arrived in Beijing.
Journalists arriving here last week to cover the Beijing Games found access to a wide array of Internet sites, including western news organisations and human rights groups, was blocked.
But after talks between the IOC and the Beijing Olympic organising committee (BOCOG) on Thursday, several sites were unblocked.
However many sites remain inaccessible, including those linked to Chinese dissidents, the outlawed Falungong spiritual movement, the Tibetan government-in-exile and sites with information on the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.
Gosper told reporters on Saturday the IOC and BOCOG have set up a working group to examine which censored websites can be opened up to reporters.
Gosper described the process as a "work in progress" after a week of controversy over the constraints on reporters' Internet access, but the Australian said he was hopeful of increased access.
"We believe we are moving to a point where you will be in a position to report in an unfettered way," Gosper said, adding there will always be a debate over whether a country's own regulations meet international expectations.
Earlier in the week, Gosper, an IOC member for more than 30 years, said that senior organisers knew some sensitive sites would be blocked and apologised to reporters.
This was later clarified by IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies, who said that BOCOG, when referring to Internet restrictions in previous meetings, had spoken only of pornographic sites and sites sensitive for national security reasons.

A glimpse into the traditional pawnbroking business in Macau: The Tak Seng On Pawnshop Museum

Cora U.I. Wong, Institute For Tourism Studies (IFT)

The pawnbroking business in China has a very long history. Albeit there are arguments about when the business emerged, a common view is that it probably has existed for more than 1600 years.  The very nature of this business is to provide financial liquidity to those who have a need to obtain money quickly, and who can pledge something valuable as collateral for a loan.  In the old days, people who resorted to pawnshops were usually gamblers in a bout of bad luck or simply poor people in extreme financial difficulties.

Sample ImageThree categories of pawnshops of different scales could be found in Macau in the past.  The ones of the largest scale, now all vanished, were called “Dang”; this kind of pawnshops offered the longest pledging period and it applied the lowest rate of interest if the loan was repaid within the pledging period.  Here the pledging period refers to the period of time during which the pledge could be redeemed by its owner.  For an item pledged in a shop of the “Dang” category, the pledging period could be for up to 3 years.  However, for a given pledge, the amount lent was smaller than in the other two categories of pawnshops.  The pawnshops in the “On” category are of medium scale; such shops are no longer found in Macau either.  Their pledging period is shorter, usually less than 2 years.  The shops of the last category are the ones we can find today.  They are the smallest ones, called “Ya”.  The pawnshops in the “Ya” category offer the shortest pledging period, mostly up to 4 months, and they charge the highest interest rate.  Nevertheless, it is still the most prevalent kind of pawnshops, because the “Ya”, among the three kinds of shops, provides the highest cash value of the pledge as a loan.  

Sample ImageOne of the most interesting museums of Macau is actually a perfectly preserved and nearly century old “On” pawnshop.  It is instructive with regards to both the physical appearance and its interior features.  It is now known as the “Tak Seng On Pawnshop Museum” and is located on the Avenida Almeida Ribeiro.  “Tak Seng On”, was once a genuine pawnshop which was opened for business in 1917.  The pawnshop was in the “On” category and was thus a relatively large pawnshop in Macau.  Unfortunately, the business was closed since 1993.  In 2000, the Macau government undertook a meticulous preservation project at the cost of approximately MOP 1.4 million.  The pawnshop was inaugurated as a museum in 2003.  Some features of the design are specific to a traditional pawnshop, such as the red wooden panel and the pledging counter.  The purpose of having a giant red wooden panel in front of the pledging counter that shields the counter from the street door is to spare the poor of being seen in a pawnshop by the passer-bys.  In the past, pledging was indeed an embarrassing situation and the poor truly did not want to be seen.