Let the Games – and Human Rights Abuses – Begin

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Chinese authorities had promised to host the best Olympics ever, placing greater emphasis on presenting the world the changing face of a new China. Yet even before the opening ceremony the Games have already been tainted by what Human Rights Watch (HRW) describes as "a well-documented surge in violations of the rights of free expression and association, as well as media freedom."

 

U.S. actress and human rights activist Mia Farrow (shown here) has been denied a visa to the Beijing Olympic Games, because of her outspoken comments on human rights violations in Sudan. (Sipa Press)
The 2008 Beijing Olympics will open Aug. 8, and China, the hosting country, is taking the lead in the rising number of human rights abuses directly linked to the preparations for the Games, according to a Human Rights Watch report released Tuesday.

Chinese authorities had promised to host the best Olympics ever, placing greater emphasis on presenting the world the changing face of a new China. Yet even before the opening ceremony the Games have already been tainted by what Human Rights Watch (HRW) describes as “a well-documented surge in violations of the rights of free expression and association, as well as media freedom.”

China has placed tremendous efforts to ensure that its athletes walk away with Olympic gold. One category where the Chinese are certain to excel will be in Beijing’s “failure to honor its Olympics-related human rights promises,” says Human Rights Watch.

The Chinese government is not alone in carrying the blame, as points out HRW, the International Olympic Committee shares the fault or its gross negligence to ensure that China meets the Olympic criteria.

“The Chinese government and the International Olympic Committee have had seven years to deliver on their pledges that these games would further human rights,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. “Instead, the Beijing Games have prompted a rollback in some of the most basic rights enshrined in China’s constitution and international law.”

Human Rights Watch pointed particularly to the following ongoing abuses and some of their most recent victims:

— Chinese citizens who expressed concerns over Olympics-related abuses face intimidation, imprisonment, and are subject to house arrest. Ye Guozhu, a 53-year-old housing rights activist, remains in prison despite having completed his four-year prison sentence in July 2008. After attempting to organize protests against forced evictions related to the Beijing Olympics, Ye was convicted on Dec. 18, 2004, on charges of “suspicion of disturbing social order.” Ye’s family has said they believe the government will hold him until after the games to prevent him from speaking freely.

— Still according to Human Rights Watch, hundreds of thousands of residents have been evicted and their homes demolished in the course of Beijing’s makeover. Ni Yulan, a 47-year-old lawyer who was disbarred and imprisoned for her work defending the rights of those forcibly evicted in Beijing and crippled by beatings she suffered in prison, is now awaiting trial on charges of “obstructing a public official” (Article 277 of the Criminal Law), which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison. During the incident in question, Ni was resisting the demolition of her own home when she was hit on the head with a brick and dragged to the ground.

— Reneging on promises to the international media, the authorities in Beijing have refused to lift restrictions permitting the foreign media from reporting freely.

This is in violation of China’s Olympic pledge.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is responsible for the security of all foreign journalists in China, continues to refuse to investigate death threats made against foreign correspondents in the wake of a state media-driven vilification campaign of “Western media bias” following the recent violence in Tibet.

“The Chinese government and the International Olympic Committee have wasted a historic opportunity to use the Beijing Games to make real progress on human rights in China,” said Richardson. “That failure has damaged the prospects for a legacy of enhanced media freedom, greater tolerance for dissent, and respect for the rule of law.”

Instead, the Chinese government has concentrated its energies on smothering the voices of those who have spoken out publicly about the need for greater tolerance for and development of human rights.

Adding to the dark clouds hanging over the Olympic stadium in Beijing is China’s alliance with the Sudanese government which stands accused of committing genocide in the Darfur region. Beijing’s authorities are further denying visas to personalities – such as U.S. actress and rights activist Mia Farrow – wishing to speak out against the injustices committed by a close ally and an important trading partner in the Arab world.

Middle East  Times

 

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