World's Most Controversial Destinations
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Why go: It's big on history and big on culture. Highlights include the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City; natural icons such as the Huanglong Valley, home of giant pandas; the sandstone peaks and pillars of Wulingyuan; and the 21st-century urban glitz of Hong Kong and Shanghai. This year all eyes are focused on the Olympics and the amazing buildings created to host them (check out the Bird's Nest, pictured). The Games take place August 8-24 in 37 competition sites, mostly in Beijing.
Why not go: While the Olympic protest is focused on the Chinese government's long-standing campaign to weaken Tibetan autonomy and cultural integrity, China's human-rights record is poor throughout the country. The government has relocated millions of rural citizens without consultation or adequate compensation, for national projects including the Three Gorges Dam. Ahead of the Olympics, vast camps that provide temporary housing to rural petitioners seeking redress in Beijing have been moved to avoid another source of protest. While restrictions on foreign journalists have been relaxed to allow interviews during the Games, arrests and harassment of Chinese journalists continue. Abroad, China has supported the regimes in Sudan and Myanmar. Meanwhile, China's poor domestic industrial standards have led to the worldwide export of tainted medicines and lead-painted toys.
Experts say: The Dalai Lama opposes an Olympic boycott. Prince Charles and Steven Spielberg, who was to be an entertainment consultant for the Games, are following in the footsteps of Reporters Without Borders, which has suggested a boycott of the Olympic Opening Ceremony in a targeted move that will embarrass the government without penalizing athletes.
If you go: Check the U.S. Embassy Web site for "Warden Messages," up-to-the-minute advisories for U.S. residents on security issues (beijing.usembassy-china.org.cn/acs_notices.html). The International Campaign for Tibet (www.savetibet.org) has urged foreign travelers to use Tibetan guides and patronize Tibetan-owned enterprises wherever possible and has published an online alternative travel guide, Paradox Lost: How Not to Be a Tourist in Tibet.