As the one year countdown to the Beijing Olympics begins, time is running out for the Chinese government to fulfil its promise of improving human rights in the run-up to the Games.
Amnesty International's latest report finds that several Beijing-based activists continue to face 'house arrest' and tight police surveillance, while those in other parts of China are facing increased abuse. Award-winning housing rights activist Chen Xiaoming died in Shanghai on 1 July, shortly after his release from prison, where reports indicate he was tortured in detention.
There is also an ongoing crackdown on the media; with continued imprisonment of journalists and writers, forced dismissal of media staff, publication closures and pervasive internet censorship.
"Unless the Chinese authorities take urgent measures to stop human rights violations over the coming year, they risk tarnishing the image of China and the legacy of the Beijing Olympics," says AI Secretary General, Irene Khan.
"Not only are we not seeing delivery on the promises made that the Olympics would help improve the human rights situation in China, but the police are using the pretext of the Olympics to extend the use of detention without trial. This is despite the fact that substantial reform or abolition of such methods has been on China's reform agenda for many years."
This increased use of detentions is part of plans to "clean up" Beijing ahead of the Games. The plans include "Re-education through Labour" for petty crimes and extensions of periods of "Enforced Drug Rehabilitation". Despite some positive reforms likely to reduce thee use of the death penalty, China remains the world's top executioner with an estimated 8,000 people killed in 2006.
Amnesty International's Secretary-General says: "The application of the death penalty in China remains shrouded in secrecy. Full transparency is essential to help prevent miscarriages of justice and provide the Chinese public with sufficient information to reach informed conclusions on the death penalty. Nothing short of publishing full national statistics on the application of the death penalty will suffice."
These ongoing human rights violations go against the core principles of the Olympic Charter, such as "the preservation of human dignity" and "respect for universal fundamental ethical principles." AI has sent a copy of its latest update to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
"The IOC must promote a positive legacy of the Olympics built on respect for human rights," says Irene Khan. "The Chinese authorities must press ahead with their promises to improve human rights so that when August 2008 arrives the Chinese people can be proud in every respect of what their country has to offer the world."