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


Seven rights groups urge IOC’s Rogge to speak out at last on human rights in China

Prague / Paris / Frankfurt / Brussels / Washington, March 19, 2008 – An international coalition of seven human rights NGOs has sent a strongly-worded open letter to IOC president Jacques Rogge to “speak out now” on behalf of human rights and Olympic ideals and to guarantee athletes’ right to freedom of expression in Beijing. Saying that only “an active, responsible approach by the IOC in defence of human rights can prevent further possible calls for boycott”, the letter comes in the wake of the Chinese crackdown in Tibet.

The signatories include Olympic Watch, Reporters Without Borders, International Society for Human Rights, Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition, Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars, Human Rights Without Frontiers, and Federation for a Democratic China.

The letter recalls the public pledges the Chinese government made in 2001 when it was bidding for the Games, promising human rights improvements and full media freedom by the time of the Olympics. Stopping short of calling for a boycott, the letter says that the IOC must guarantee that athletes will be able to peacefully express their opinions in Beijing. It also urges free access to Tibet for international and Chinese media, and fair treatment for all detainees of the recent crackdown.

The full text of the letter follows below:

Dear President Rogge,

The Chinese government’s crackdown and the media blackout in Tibet have alerted the world to the lack of human rights progress in China just a few months before the Olympic Games are to take place in Beijing.

We, the undersigned organisations, call on you personally and on the rest of the international Olympic movement to act now and side with the Olympic ideals of "human dignity" and "respect for universal fundamental ethical principles".

China must immediately ensure freedom for the international as well as Chinese media to investigate and report on the recent crackdown in Tibet, as it publicly pledged full media freedom by the time of the Olympics when it was bidding for the Games in 2001.

China must also release all Tibetans and others who only peacefully exercised their freedom of expression, prevent torture and other kinds of ill-treatment of all detainees, and ensure the right to fair trial to all. The world remembers China’s public pledges of human rights improvements in 2001.

The International Olympic Committee and National Olympic Committees must publicly state that Olympic athletes enjoy full freedom of expression if and when they come to Beijing. Their peaceful support for human rights and Olympic ideals is their human right and duty and they can in no way be prevented from doing so.

Only an active, responsible approach by the IOC in defence of human rights can prevent further possible calls for boycott by concerned citizens of the world. Stop hiding behind absurd statements about not mixing sports and politics. Human rights is not politics. Human dignity is not politics. Human life is not politics. People are dying. You need to speak out now.

Prague / Washington / Frankfurt / Brussels / Paris, 19 March 2008

Jan Ruml, chairman, Olympic Watch
Wei Jingsheng, chair, Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition
Karl Hafen, managing director, International Society for Human Rights (IGFM/ISHR)
Willy Fautré, director, Human Rights Without Frontiers Intl.
Robert Ménard, secretary-general, Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Zhou Jian, president, Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars
Fei Liangyong, chairman, Federation for a Democratic China

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