Olympic Watch: human rights in China and the Beijing 2008 Olympics OLYMPIC WATCHOLYMPIC WATCH


Committee for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in
a Free and Democratic Country

At its meeting in Moscow, the International Olympic Committee decided to convene the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. This is an important and risky step with far-reaching potential consequences. At stake is nothing less than the Olympic idea of peace, friendship and solidarity.

Were the Olympic Games to take place in Beijing now, we would consider it to be a travesty of the Olympic idea. The communist regime in China continues to persecute, jail and torture its opponents and it tramples upon the human rights of both individuals and entire ethnic and religious groups. More than 1700 persons have been executed in China in the last three months, often for nonviolent offenses and without the appropriate right to legal defense and fair trial. China suppresses the most elementary freedoms and human rights in Tibet and it threatens to use force against the democratically elected political representation in Taiwan. The Chinese authorities hinder the free contact of Chinese citizens with the rest of the world, it attempts to censor the Internet and curtail free access to information.

At the same time, the decision to entrust the organization of the Olympic Games to China constitutes an acknowledgment of the considerable progress of China on the road towards modernization and developed economy in the last decades. For the Chinese authorities it represents a challenge and an opportunity to transform their great country into a truly developed and democratic society. This could be the positive impact of the IOC decision.

Only China itself will decide whether the fears, or alternately the hopes associated with this decision materialize. For the rest of us, the task will be to follow the developments of the next seven years and to draw attention to the remaining problems in the area of human rights and democratic freedoms. To this end we have decided to initiate a Committee for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in a Free and Democratic Country. The Committee would collect and catalogue reports by human rights organizations (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, et al.) and to coordinate activities with respect to the IOC and the national Olympic committees in this area. If, in five years, the People's Republic of China demonstrates an adequate progress in the field of human rights and civic freedoms, we will be happy to join the celebrations of the Olympic Games in Beijing. If, on the other hand, such a progress does not occur, we would call on the IOC to review its decision, or, in the absence of such a review, call on the respective national Olympic committees to boycott the Games.

Prague, July 19, 2001

Jan Ruml
Senate of the Czech Republic
  Michael Zantovsky
Former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Security

Karel Schwarzenberg
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