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


After Torino, focus on Beijing’s human rights record

Prague / Paris / Frankfurt / Washington, February 28, 2006 – An international coalition of human rights organizations, including two groups headed by prominent Chinese exiles, has written a letter to the president of the International Olympic Committee, asking him to “focus on the continuing human rights abuses” in China before Beijing 2008 because they “threaten to damage the Olympic ideals forever.” The IOC, the groups suggest, may need to “reconsider holding the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.”

The letter, signed by the heads of Olympic Watch, Wei Jingsheng Foundation, Laogai Research Foundation, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Solidarité Chine and the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR/IGFM), lists the kinds of human rights violations that have been casting doubt on the selection of Beijing as the host city for the 2008 Olympic Games from the very beginning. These include the persecution of journalists and internet activists, lack of religious freedom, widespread torture and internationally unparalleled numbers of executions. Among the other issues of long-term concern are the fates of Tibet and Taiwan.

Further, the activists are pointing out human rights abuses directly linked to the organization of the 2008 Olympic Games: the evictions of Beijing residents and related persecution of protesters, and the abuse of Chinese children and youth in state training camps for political propaganda purposes. All these issues, the human rights groups argue, are contrary to the Olympic Charter’s ideals of “harmonious development of man”, “human dignity” and “peace”.

Olympic Watch was established in Prague in 2001 in response to the IOC’s decision to grant the organization of the 2008 Olympic Games to Beijing. Its mission is to monitor the human rights situation in China and work for improvements before Beijing hosts the Games.

For more information:
- Olympic Watch, +420 608 560 503, press@olympicwatch.org
- Reporters Without Borders (RSF), +33 1 44 83 84 70, asie@rsf.org
- Laogai Research Foundation, +1 202-833-8770, or laogai@laogai.org
- Wei Jingsheng Foundation, +1 202-543-1538, HCP@Weijingsheng.org

The full text of the letter follows below.

Mr. Jacques Rogge
International Olympic Committee
Château de Vidy
CH-1007 Lausanne

February 27, 2006

Dear President Rogge,

As the 2006 Olympic Winter Games have come to a close and your attention can now fully turn to the 2008 Olympic Games, we are urging you to focus on the continuing human rights abuses in the People’s Republic of China that threaten to damage the Olympic ideals forever.

During the bidding process in 2001, Beijing made clear promises on human rights issues. We have heard promises regarding “improvement of the human rights situation” and “respect for freedom of speech”. As most observers agree, the situation in China is clearly not improving.

The government of the People’s Republic of China and the Communist Party of China, with whom the Beijing Organizing Committee is clearly linked, continue to abuse the human rights of Chinese people. The fundamental freedom of expression is clearly not respected: dozens of journalists and internet activists are documented in prison for merely exercising their internationally recognized human rights; religious freedoms of Tibetan Buddhists, Uyghur Muslims, Chinese Christians, Falun Gong practitioners and others are not respected. Torture is “widespread” in China according to official UN statements. The Chinese government continues to execute more people than the rest of the world combined, in the absence of fair trial procedures. Beijing is clearly willing to trample upon the Olympic ideal of peace by threatening military action against the democratic processes in Taiwan.

Human rights abuses are surfacing even in direct relation to the preparation of the 2008 Olympic Games. Residents of several Beijing neighborhoods have been illegally evicted for reconstruction projects without proper compensation. Just over a year ago, a brave man Ye Guozhu was sent to prison for four years for lawfully attempting to organize a peaceful protest event of these people.

Further, according to many reports, the conditions under which the Chinese youth “train” for athletic success seem symptomatic of and clearly linked to the nature of the regime in China. Hard work is certainly necessary for an athlete to succeed. However, the authoritarian government seems to be grossly ill-treating many young people in state training camps as it is interested not in their benefit, but only in its own survival through the abuse of the Games.

President Rogge, we urge you to immediately assume your responsibility in defending the Olympic Charter’s ideals of “harmonious development of man”, “dignity” and “peace”, and making it clear to the Chinese authorities that if human rights are not respected in China as promised, the IOC will be forced to reconsider holding the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Most sincerely,

Jan Ruml, Chairman, Olympic Watch
Wei Jingsheng, President, and Huang Ciping, Executive Director, Wei Jingsheng Foundation
Harry Wu, Executive Director, Laogai Research Foundation
Marie Holzman, President, Solidarité Chine
Karl Hafen, Managing Director, International Society for Human Rights (ISHR/IGFM)
Robert Ménard, General Secretary, Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

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