Amnesty International Philippines today sends petitions with 20,000 signatures to the Chinese government, as contribution to the millions of signatures that the Amnesty movement has collected over the year, to call for the Chinese authorities to grasp this unique opportunity to do something to uplift the human rights situation in their country.

“Seven years has passed and barely a month to go before the Games begin, dark clouds hung over China due to continuing detention without trial, repression of journalists and internet censorship as well as the application of death penalty. China has not taken bold steps to improve human rights despite its commitments to do so when it won the bid to host the Olympics 7 years ago. China will lose this opportune time to make a positive Olympics legacy, unless it fast-tracks urgent actions for human dignity,” said Dr. Aurora A. Parong, Director of Amnesty International Philippines at the Post Office at Lawton prior to mailing petitions to the Chinese authorities to urgently take action on human rights.

Contrary to what are shown on television, amidst the spectacular human-made structural marvels for the Olympics, human rights in China is in its all-time low. It has continued to deteriorate in a number of areas it won the bid to host the Olympics in July 2001. Despite commitments made by the Chinese authorities that hosting the Games would be an opportunity to develop human rights, the situation has actually worsened. The Chinese authorities fundamentally need to change course if a positive legacy for the Games is to be delivered.

Director Parong called on Chinese officials to abolish detention without trial, release all prisoners of conscience, allow press freedom, and significantly decrease the application of the death penalty in China. The petitions, include among others, the release of blind legal activist Chen Guancheng, journalist Shi Tao, human rights defenders Ye Guozho, Huang Jinqui and Yang Tongyan and support for the Tiennanmen Mothers’ efforts to seek justice for the students who were were killed 19 years ago.

Dr. Parong added, ” Amnesty International’s call for human rights in the context of the Olympics is in no way intended to diminish the pride and excitement those in China may have for hosting the Games. The acts of China to ignore the values of Olympism and to downplay the severity of human rights violations, are the ones that diminish China’s pride in hosting the Games.”  Amnesty International has not called for boycott of the Olympics.

Amnesty International said that in order for the Beijing Olympics to have the long-lasting positive human rights legacy, the Chinese government must.

1. Abolish Re-education Through Labour and other forms of punitive administrative detention

In May 2006, Beijing extended use of a system of detention without trial called “Re-education Through Labor”, to “clean up” the city’s image before the Olympics. The system targets people who have committed minor offenses – such as unlawful advertising, unlicensed taxis, vagrancy and begging – but are not legally considered criminals. They are forced to work for long hours, similar to compulsory labor in prisons and can be held for up to four years.

Hundreds of thousands are believed to be held in Re-education Through Labor facilities across China. All are at high risk of torture or other ill-treatment.

2. The government must prevent the police from arbitrarily detaining people who have committed minor offenses as part of the pre-Olympics “clean-up”.Release all prisoners of conscience

Human rights activists in China – and their relatives – suffer continuous police control, surveillance, arbitrary detention and imprisonment after unfair trials for campaigning for the protection of human rights. Human rights activists seeking to draw connections between ongoing human rights violations and China’s hosting of the Olympics have been among the most harshly treated, yet many continue to publicize their concerns despite the risks.

Certain provisions of the Criminal Law are used as political tools to suppress dissent. Broadly defined categories of crimes, such as “separatism”, “subversion”, “disturbing public order”, and “stealing state secrets”, are used to prosecute those engaged in legitimate and peaceful human rights activities.

3. China must release all prisoners of conscience – specifically those detained in connection with the hosting of the Olympics.

  • Allow full access and freedom of reporting for both Chinese and international journalists

China is today the world’s leading jail for journalists. The government’s commitment to “complete media freedom” during the Olympics is compromised by an ongoing crackdown on individual journalists, newspapers and websites. Censorship of websites, blogs and emails is particularly strong. The “Great Firewall of China” is one of the most extensive and broad-reaching system of internet filtering in the world.

Also, while temporary new regulations may give foreign journalists more freedom to conduct interviews in China until October 2008, restrictions over the domestic distribution of their reports and control over the domestic Chinese media have been tightened.

4. China must fulfil its promise of “complete media freedom” in the run-up to the Games.

  • Publish full national statistics on the death penalty to substantiate claims that the restoration of Supreme Peoples Court review has led to a significant reduction in death sentences and executions

China is the world’s leading executioner. Although there has been an apparent reduction in the number of executions in China after the Supreme People’s Court review for all death sentences was restored in January 2007, as the figures are a state secret it is impossible to know for sure. Those sentenced to death in China do not receive a fair trial in accordance with international human rights standards.

Around 68 crimes can be punishable by death in China, including non-violent offenses like tax fraud, embezzling, taking bribes and some drug crimes.

5. China must reduce the number of capital crimes – especially those for non-violent offenses and introduce a moratorium in line with the UN General Assembly resolution adopted on 18 December 2007.

Further, Amnesty International said, “Human rights secure the basis for all human life, from health and shelter to freedom of expression and religion. To stand up for human rights is to stand up for the Olympic values enshrined in the Olympic Charter.