AI Philippines says China’s broken promises, a betrayal of the Olympic spirit

Human rights in China continue to deteriorate despite promises for improvement of China’s human rights record before the Beijing Olympics this August 2008.

“Ten days before the start of the Beijing Olympics, Amnesty International is releasing a report clearly showing many broken human rights promises of China.

The poor human rights situation is not in keeping with principles of Olympism which stress the importance of universal fundamental ethical principles and the preservation of human dignity. To date the hosting of the Olympics has failed to act as a catalyst for reform.Said Dr. Aurora A. Parong, Amnesty International  Philippines Section Director.

No less than the Olympics Charter stated that “The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”

Amnesty International’s report on China entitled “The Olympic Countdown – Broken Promises” concludes that in most of the areas investigated including persecution of human rights activists, detention without trial, censorship and the death penalty,  human rights have continued to deteriorate in the run-up to the Olympics. The report noted that in preparation for the Games, the Chinese authorities have locked up, put under house arrest, and forcibly removed individuals they perceive may threaten the image of ‘stability’ and ‘harmony’ which they want to present to the world. AI’s report also stated that Information control is prevalent, prisoners of conscience remain in detention despite poor health conditions. The death penalty continued to be imposed in the run-up to the Olympics.

“With the short amount of time before the Games begin, a positive human rights legacy to the Beijing Olympics looks increasingly beyond reach.” Said Director Parong.

Earlier in 2001, Beijing Olympic Bid Committee Secretary General Wang Wei commitment that China’s hosting of the Olympic Games will be an opportunity to enhance all social conditions, including education, health and human rights in the country.

“ As the Olympics draw closer, silence from world leaders sends a message to the Chinese authorities of tacit endorsement of the human rights violations perpetrated in preparation for the Games. A failure to speak out would effectively constitute a ‘conspiracy of silence’. Amnesty International continues to call on second governments to speak out publicly about these abuses, in particular by calling for the release of human rights activists and other prisoners of conscience in China.” Said Dr. Parong.

Journalists from outside China are preparing for their Olympic stint. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has assured that new regulations on the treatment of foreign media are now in place but Amnesty International expressed  concern, given the current human rights reality, that foreign media will not be able to report or use the internet as freely as they have been used to outside China.

“ When it awarded the Olympic Games to China the IOC made its own expectations clear that Beijing’s hosting of the Games would bring human rights improvements. We welcome the statement by Jacques Rogge, President of the IOC, on 10 April that reminded the Chinese authorities of their commitment and ask them to honour it. Amnesty International believes it is appropriate therefore to expect the IOC to use its influence with the Chinese authorities to bring about positive change in line with the Olympic Charter,” added Dr. Parong.

”We are not blinking our eyes. We are watching. We are still waiting for urgent decisive actions by the Chinese government in order that the Beijing Olympics will not only be remembered for its sports legacy but also for human rights.”