Václav Havel, Desmond Tutu, MEPs call for human rights at Beijing Olympics
Prague, 31 July 2008 – A group of international intellectual, spiritual and political leaders has published a public appeal today, calling on the International Olympic Committee to allow full access to information at Beijing Olympics and on Olympic athletes to express themselves in support of people whose rights are being violated by the Chinese government. The signatories, including writer and former Czech president Václav Havel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng, European Parliament Vice-President Edward McMillan-Scott, and philosopher André Glucksmann, reject the notion that peaceful promotion of human rights would constitute political propaganda prohibited by the Olympic Charter.
Pointing to the fact that human rights are a “universal and inalienable topic, enshrined in international human rights”, they argue: “To speak of human rights is not politics; only authoritarian and totalitarian regimes try to make it so. To speak of human rights is a duty.”
The signatories call on the IOC to allow Olympic athletes to be able to “learn about the real situation in China and to point out human rights violations freely whenever and wherever in line with their conscience”. They also call on all Olympians “to use this liberty to support those whose freedoms, even at the time of the Olympics, are denied by the Chinese government”.
The appeal comes as Olympic Watch, a Prague-based human rights organization whose chairman Jan Ruml is among the signatories, is addressing national Olympic teams, recommending to each a particular Chinese prisoner of conscience to adopt and take action in their support. Details of this campaign will be released on Friday.
The full text of the appeal follows below:
Open Letter / Appeal
Dear Olympic Games Participants,
The selection of Beijing for the organization of the 2008 Olympic Games was accompanied by the Chinese government’s pledges of visible progress on their respect for human rights. We understood these as a condition whose fulfillment the International Olympic Committee would demand. That is how this year’s Olympics could contribute to a greater openness and respect for international standards of human rights and liberties in the host country. If the words of the Olympic Charter, stating that it is a goal of Olympism to “place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity”, are to be fulfilled, it is necessary for all Olympians to be able to learn about the real situation in China and to point out human rights violations freely whenever and wherever in line with their conscience. We call on the International Olympic Committee to make that possible.
An interpretation of the Olympic Charter according to which human rights would be a political topic not to be discussed in the Olympic venues is alien to us. Human rights are a universal and inalienable topic, enshrined in international human rights documents that China has also signed onto, transcending international as well as domestic politics, and all cultures, religions and civilizations. To speak of the conditions of human rights therefore cannot be in violation of the Olympic Charter. To speak of human rights is not politics; only authoritarian and totalitarian regimes try to make it so. To speak of human rights is a duty.
We are concerned that the Beijing Olympics might simply become a giant spectacle to distract the attention of the international public from the violations of human and civil rights in China and in other countries with the Chinese government’s significant influence. Therefore, we see a dignified celebration of the Olympic ideals not only in sporting performances, but also in the opportunity to express one’s civic attitudes. We call on all participants of the summer Olympic Games in Beijing to use this liberty to support those whose freedoms, even at the time of the Olympics, are denied by the Chinese government.
The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu
Edward McMillan-Scott, MEP
Jana Hybášková, MEP
Baronness Emma Nicholson, MEP
Ana Maria Gomes, MEP
Berndt Posselt, MEP
Milan Horacek, MEP
Bart Staes, MEP
Helga Trüpel, MEP
Eva Lichtenberger, MEP
Cem Özdemir, MEP