500 cyclists join AI’s call for human rights in China, 5 days before the Olympics

“Olympism stands for the preservation of human dignity, as stated in the Olympics Charter. Thus Olympism also means respect for human rights. It does not only mean excellence in sports.” said Dr. Aurora Corazon Parong, Amnesty International Philippines Section Director, in her welcoming remarks to start off the human rights cycling caravan dubbed Bike for Rights 2008: PadyaKarapatan para sa China.

Five days before the Olympics games start in Beijing, Amnesty International Philippines (AIPh) was joined by 500 Filipino cyclists in a 78 km bicycle tour in seven cities of Metro Manila to call for China to immediately take steps to improve human rights or miss the opportunity for a positive Olympics legacy.

Currently, Amnesty International’s website, along with other websites, is blocked from access by foreign journalists working from the Olympics press centre in Beijing.

“Internet censorship and the detention of people who raise human rights concerns in China is tarnishing the legacy of the Games. The cyclists join us in this view. We have repeatedly reminded China of the human rights pledges they made during the bid for the Olympics. It is regrettable that our call is falling on deaf ears. AI’s report on China earlier last week noted China’s broken promises on human rights.” Continued Parong.

Amnesty International Philippines (AIPh) had earlier called for a positive human rights legacy of the Beijing Olympics when they first marched to the Chinese Consulate in Makati City during the 100 days countdown to the Beijing Olympics last April.

AI has appealed to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and 2nd governments to publicly express their concern on Human Rights in China. Although the IOC already publicized what it sees as human rights improvements in the country linking to the hosting of the Games, it has persistently refused to publicly criticise reports of human rights abuses aside from very general comments on the issue.

AI calls on 2nd governments, including the Philippine government, to speak out publicly about human rights issues such as the crackdown on human rights defenders, the arbitrary detention of people and the continued use of the death penalty, in their meetings with Chinese officials.

When asked about China’s reaction that AI’s report and the campaigning around the Olympics is unfair to China, Dr. Parong noted that,

“We have never called for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics. We recognize the Olympics as a unique opportunity for China to project itself as a nation. AI is not biased against China – we have campaigned on other countries that have previously hosted the Olympics, for example by raising concerns on the discriminatory treatment of Roma communities in Athens and the death penalty in the USA. We are only saying that the Beijing Olympics is a rare opportunity for China to have a human rights legacy which the world will remember.”

Further, AIPh emphasized that the AI movement is not calling for a disruption of the Games in any form and that they have chosen other ways to oppose human rights abuses and work for the improvement of the human rights situation in China.

“We are working with athletes. In making links with human rights, AI is simply urging the Chinese authorities to fulfill the commitments they officially and repeatedly made during the bidding process. AI will not stop campaigning for human rights in China even after the Olympics. The issues we are looking at now are issues we have worked on for many years. We will continue to take action until permanent human rights reforms, in law and practice, have been made.” Said Parong.

Amnesty International Philippines organized the Bike for Rights 2008: PadyaKarapatan sa China with the support of CYCAD Cycling Advocates, Pugadlawin Phils., QC Rescue, MMDA, DENR and other individual concerned cyclists. The cycling caravan started at Quezon Memorial Circle and returned to the area after a stop-over at PICC.