The protest zones are silent, but the city is simmering with dissent. Preparations for the Olympics led to a level of social disruption unlike anything in recent memory. At the same time, traditional avenues of solving problems have been shut down, and police crackdowns have intensified. This has created an Olympic pressure-cooker.
For centuries China has had a process of informal appeal called shangfang -- the practice of bringing complaints to the officials who run the country. . .
All this was swept aside by Beijing's Olympics cleanup. Months before the Games began, thousands of petitioners from outside Beijing were sent home or into detention. Across Beijing, suspected dissidents have been placed under increased surveillance. The most prominent were incarcerated.