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


Olympic Watch welcomes Rogge’s statements, calls for freedom for Chinese journalists and for athletes on human rights

Prague, April 10, 2008 – Olympic Watch welcomed the comments made by IOC president Jacques Rogge in Beijing today as “an important step in the right direction” but said more was needed. Rogge called today for the Chinese government to implement in practice freer conditions for international media and said that the for the IOC, “ freedom of expression is something that is absolute.” In its response, Olympic Watch said that IOC also needs to speak out for the freedom of Chinese journalists and affirm explicitly that peaceful promotion of human rights at Olympic venues is in no way in contradiction to the Olympic Charter.

Olympic Watch is a human rights organization set up in Prague in 2001 in response to the IOC’s decision to grant the 2008 Olympics to Beijing. Its mission is to campaign to keep the Chinese officials accountable for the pledges of human rights improvements made in 2001. Olympic Watch has been pointing out the plight of imprisoned Chinese journalists as well as human rights defenders such as Hu Jia, Yang Chunlin and Ye Guozhu, imprisoned for criticising the Olympic Games. Olympic Watch is currently chaired by its co-founder Jan Ruml, a lawyer and former prisoner of conscience under communist Czechoslovakia.

The full text of the statement follows below:

Olympic Watch welcomes the comments made by IOC president Jacques Rogge at the press conference in Beijing today. We believe they are an important step in the right direction.

On media freedom, it is indeed necessary that international media be allowed to operate freely throughout the territory of the People’s Republic of China, including Tibet and Xinjiang (called East Turkestan by Uyghurs). An international fact-finding mission should also be allowed in the regions to allow for verification of crackdowns on Tibetans and Uyghurs.

In line with the Olympic principle of non-discrimination and the Chinese officials’ pledges of full media freedom, the IOC also needs to speak out on behalf of imprisoned Chinese journalists and against the combination of censorship and propaganda that the Chinese government employs. Domestic media were able to operate free of censorship in Los Angeles 1984, Seoul 1988, Barcelona 1992, Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 as well as Athens 2004. If conditions are indeed to be identical for the media in Beijing as promised, Chinese domestic media must be free by the time of the Games as well.

Mr. Rogge also made commendable comments regarding the athletes’ freedom of expression. It is also necessary to specify that expressing support for human rights in a peaceful way at the Olympic venues cannot be in any way misconstrued as “political, religious or racial propaganda” and thus does not contradict the Olympic Charter. Human rights is not politics, it is a universal concept endorsed by the Olympic Charter. Olympic Watch will be soon releasing its specific recommendations to this effect that will promote respect for human rights and the Chinese people.

We hope the IOC continues to show its capacity to promote the Olympic ideal of human dignity and human rights. An open, honest and peaceful dialogue between the Chinese, Tibetan and Uyghur people and an improvement of the human rights situation in China, Burma and Sudan can indeed be the greatest legacy of this year’s Olympic Games.

Prague, April 10, 2008

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