The 2008 Beijing Olympics is about sport, but what matters more to the central government is using the event to showcase a new face of China to the world. Naturally, the hundreds of millions of television viewers who are expected to tune in to see the Games will see the capital only at its best. But that is barely enough to accomplish the mission. The city government has to ensure that visitors who turn up to see the competition will not be disappointed. With two years to go before the big day comes, the capital is gearing up to meet that challenge by making plans to spruce up its image. According to reports published by several mainland newspapers and government websites yesterday, Beijing is drawing up regulations to impose strict controls on the movement of migrants during the two-week period when the Games are held. City officials were quick to deny the reports, saying that the plans were just 'suggestions put forward by experts'. But it is good to see the officials back-pedalling as a result of the outbreak of public concern as the original plans were downright discriminatory. The plans had envisioned 'persuading' an estimated 1 million migrant workers now toiling to finish the various sports venues on time to go back to their home towns. Vagabonds and beggars would be 'assisted' according to law, while those who were under age would be provided with 'compulsory assistance'. Street vendors, workers at beauty salons, which are often a front for prostitution, and others engaged in 'low-band' occupations would be 'pushed out' of the city. The number of people allowed to enter the capital from other parts of the country for business reasons would be limited by administrative decrees. So much for the rule of law. The regulations, if introduced, would restrict the freedom of movement of whole sectors of the population and amount to a segregation policy. Were they to be introduced in jurisdictions with a real regard for human rights, they would be regarded as unconstitutional. All over the world, it is not unusual for a city chosen to host a major event to introduce measures to cope with an influx of visitors. In most cities, they are aimed at ensuring normal daily activities will not be greatly affected. On the mainland, however, precedents abound of cities tasked with a similar mission winding everything down to ensure that the functions they host can proceed without a hitch for the privileged attendees, even if that causes great inconvenience to ordinary citizens. For example, Shanghai closed down parts of the city when it hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum meeting in 2001. It should therefore come as no surprise that Beijing has hatched draconian measures. Admittedly, some of the measures have to be taken to keep pollution down, as the city's air may pose a health threat if all cars take to the road and every factory remains operational. Still, the command-and-control measures say a lot about the state of social, economic and political development of the country. Pushing aside those who fall behind in the get-rich-first struggle for the purpose of making a good impression is objectionable. Unfortunately, until now, that has not been regarded as an issue on the mainland, where glossing over the bad and glamorising the good has become accepted practice. Indeed, the same approach is also driving the mainland's controls on the flow of information. Hopefully, Beijing will now rethink its originally high-handed way of maintaining order during the Olympics. In winning the rights to host the Games, the central government promised to allow the foreign media a free hand in reporting from the capital. A nation that is confident of its achievements has no need to hide its shortcomings. Allowing foreign visitors and media the freedom to see and report the mainland as it is would be the best means of showcasing to the world that China has really come of age.