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The state of the world's human rights

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28 July 2008

China: Authorities’ broken promises jeopardize Olympic legacy

(Hong Kong) The Chinese authorities have broken their promise to improve the country’s human rights situation and betrayed the core values of the Olympics, said Amnesty International in a new report published today, marking the 10 day countdown to the Games.

“By continuing to persecute and punish those who speak out for human rights, the Chinese authorities have lost sight of the promises they made when they were granted the Games seven years ago,” said Roseann Rife, Asia-Pacific Deputy Director at Amnesty International at a press conference in Hong Kong.

“The Chinese authorities are tarnishing the legacy of the Games. They must release all imprisoned peaceful activists, allow foreign and national journalists to report freely and make further progress towards the elimination of the death penalty.”

Amnesty International’s report “The Olympics Countdown: Broken Promises” evaluates the performance of the Chinese authorities in four areas related to the core values of the Olympics: persecution of human rights activists, detention without trial, censorship and the death penalty.

The document concludes that in most of these areas human rights have continued to deteriorate in the run-up to the Olympics. 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’ they want to present to the world.

Amnesty International believes that local activists and journalists working on human rights issues in China are at particular risk of abuse during the Games.

Human rights activist and writer Hu Jia continues to serve his sentence for “inciting subversion” by writing about human rights and giving interviews to foreign media. Hu Jia suffers from liver disease due to a Hepatitis B infection but the authorities have prevented his family from providing him with medicine in the prison.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) President, Jacques Rogge, recently claimed the IOC’s quiet diplomacy had led to several human rights reforms, including the new regulations for foreign media.

“We welcome the IOC’s recognition of its role on human rights, but given the current reality, we are surprised at their confidence that foreign media will be able to report freely and that there will be no internet censorship,” said Roseann Rife. “And they must speak out when the authorities violate the wider Olympic principles.”

“Additionally, world leaders who attend the Games need to raise their voice publicly for human rights in China and in support of individual Chinese human rights activists. A failure to do so will send the message that it is acceptable for a government to host the Olympic Games in an atmosphere of repression and persecution.”


Note to editors
Amnesty International’s report concluded that:

  • Many human rights defenders continue to be held in prisons across China and under house arrest; others are tightly monitored by police to ensure they will not disrupt the Olympics in any way. 
  • The Chinese authorities have extended the use of punitive administrative detention – including
    “Re-education through Labour” and “Enforced Drug Rehabilitation” – to “clean up” Beijing before the start of the Olympics and ensure activists stay out of sight during the Games.
  • Temporary media regulations that were supposed to allow greater freedom of reporting for foreign media have not been fully implemented. The Foreign Correspondents Club of China reported 260 cases of reporting interference since 1 January 2007. The regulations do not extend to Chinese journalists who continue to be prevented from publishing stories on issues deemed sensitive by the government.
  • The death penalty continues to be used for some 68 crimes, including some non-violent crimes such as economic and drug-related offences. Despite assurances that the number of executions has dropped since the Supreme People's Court reinstated the review process, the Chinese authorities have not published actual figures.

Liu Jie, a rural activist, was detained in Beijing and assigned to 18 months “Re-education through Labour” (RTL) in Heilongjiang province, northeast China, where local sources say she has been physically abused for having organized a public letter urging leaders to carry out political and legal reforms, including abolition of RTL.

In June 2008, the police detained Sichuan-based human rights activist Huang Qi on suspicion of “illegally acquiring state secrets”. Huang had been involved in assisting the families of five primary school pupils to bring a legal case against the local authorities. The five pupils died when the school buildings collapsed in the earthquake in Sichuan in May.

In 2001, when China was granted the hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games, Wang Wei, Secretary General of the Beijing Olympic Bid Committee said: “We will give the media complete freedom to report when they come to China. ( … ) We are confident that the Games coming to China not only promote our economy but also enhances all social conditions, including education, health and human rights.”

For a copy of the 18-page report “ ‘People’s Republic of China The Olympics Countdown – Broken Promises” please see:  http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA17/089/2008/en

AI Index: PRE01/203/2008
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