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

News releases


Olympic Watch responds to Beijing organizer claims

Prague, August 14, 2008 - Olympic Watch chairman Jan Ruml responded to claims made by Wang Wei, vice-president of the Beijing Organizing Committee, at a press conference in Beijing today. “For Wang Wei to claim that the Beijing Olympics has led to greater respect for human rights is an outrageously absurd statement,” said Jan Ruml, chairman of Olympic Watch.


Adopt China’s prisoners of conscience - Olympic Watch to athletes and leaders

Prague - August 1, 2008 - One week before the start of the Beijing Olympics, Olympic athletes, officials and public leaders from participating countries are being asked to adopt Chinese human rights defenders persecuted by the Chinese government. As a follow-up to yesterday’s appeal signed by Czech ex-president Vaclav Havel, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu and Chinese exile activist Wei Jingsheng, Olympic Watch has launched its Adopt2008.org campaign.


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.


Olympic Watch reacts to continued censorship in Beijing

Prague, July 30, 2008 - Olympic Watch, the human rights organization set up in 2001 to help keep the Chinese government accountable for its Olympics-related human rights promises, has issued a statement harshly criticizing the continued censorship of internet access for journalists and athletes in Beijing. Calling the International Olympic Committee’s “silent diplomacy” strategy “demonstrably ineffective”, Olympic Watch urges the IOC to “publicly call for an end to censorship in China, and for the release of all those Chinese citizens who have been persecuted in relation with the Olympics”.


One month before Beijing Olympics, Olympic Watch writes Chinese president

Prague, July 8, 2008 – Olympic Watch chairman Jan Ruml today sent a letter to President Hu Jintao of the People’s Republic of China, calling on him to fulfill the promises regarding human rights in China that Chinese officials made when bidding for the organization of the Olympics in Beijing, and to release Hu Jia, Yang Chunlin and Ye Guozhu - three activists jailed in connection with the Olympics.


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 condemns Hu Jia’s jailing as IOC heads to Beijing

Prague, April 3, 2008 - Olympic Watch has condemned the conviction of the Chinese dissident Hu Jia, who was jailed for three and half years for “inciting subversion of state power and the socialist system”. “The Chinese government is ignoring its commitments of human rights improvements and testing how far it can go just as IOC executives head to Beijing,” said Olympic Watch chairman Jan Ruml.


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.


Olympic Watch to China: Let media in Tibet, release peaceful protesters

Prague, March 14, 2008 – In response to protests rattling Tibetan cities, Olympic Watch has issued a statement calling on the Chinese government to allow international media in Tibet, release all peaceful protesters, and start negotiations with the Tibetan government-in-exile. It also calls on the International Olympic Committee to assume its responsibility and hold the Chinese government accountable for its promises of human rights improvements.


Release “Olympic prisoners” and free Chinese media, Olympic Watch requests

Prague, February 7, 2008 – With six months to go until the Beijing 2008 Olympics, Olympic Watch is calling for an end to human rights abuses in China. Specifically calling for the release of “Olympic prisoners” Hu Jia, Yang Chunlin and Ye Guozhu, it also reminds the International Olympic Committee that full media freedom must be guaranteed in China as promised in 2001. In press freedom, the IOC must not discriminate between foreign and Chinese media, because that would contradict the Olympic ideal of non-discrimination, Olympic Watch says.


Chinese human rights activists write IOC

Brussels, May 19, 2007 – A coalition of international organizations working for human rights improvements in China, including several associations of the Chinese democratic exile, has sent an open letter to Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC. The letter calls on Rogge to hold the Beijing Organizing Committee accountable for the lack of human rights progress in China. Considering the promises made by Beijing during its candidacy for the 2008 Olympics, the letter reminds the IOC of the necessity to ensure freedom of the press and of the human rights violations carried out in relation to the Games. The letter also calls on the IOC to stop the political abuse of the Olympic ideals by the propaganda machine of the Chinese Communist Party.


Olympic Watch writes National Olympic Committees

Prague, December 10, 2006 - Olympic Watch, an organization campaigning for human rights improvements in China before the 2008 Olympic Games, has sent a letter to national Olympic committees around the world. Sent twenty months before the Games are to start and on the eve of the International Human Rights Day, the letter alerts the national committees about the ongoing human rights violations in China and reminds them of their obligations in defending Olympic ideals.


Two years until Beijing 2008: IOC fails, activists call on athletes, sponsors to act

Prague / Paris / Frankfurt / Washington, August 7, 2006 - Two years before the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games are to begin, an international coalition of human rights organizations has issued a joint statement, saying the International Olympic Committee has failed to protect Olympic ideals and calling on national Olympic committees, athletes and sponsors to take action. Citing continuing human rights violations and political propaganda abuse of the Games by the Chinese authoritarian government, they say boycott is one of possible options of protest.


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.”


OW and AI: Czech Republic must not remain silent on human rights abuses in China

Prague, December 7, 2005 – A coalition of five NGOs has requested by letters to President Klaus and Prime Minister Paroubek that they use their meetings with Chinese premier Wen to discuss human rights, which are seriously violated in China. The letter has been signed by leaders of Olympic Watch, Amnesty International Czech Republic, the Confederation of Political Prisoners of the Czech Republic, the People in Need Foundation, and the Lungta association.


June 3: Global Tiananmen Vigil

Prague / Hong Kong / Washington / New York, May 27, 2005 - On Friday, June 3, at 20:00 (8:00pm) in various time zones, people around the world will light candles in their windows to commemorate the sixteenth anniversary of the massacre in downtown Beijing. This is the ambition of the second annual Global Tiananmen Vigil, an international initiative launched jointly by several human rights groups.


Europe-wide call against lifting China arms embargo

Prague / Amsterdam / Brussels, December 3, 2004 – A broad coalition of pro-democracy and pro-Tibetan NGOs from around Europe has written an open letter to the European Union today, urging it not to lift the arms embargo on China. They point out that the original reason for the embargo, the Tiananmen massacre, continues to be justified by the Beijing government and activists from the pro-democracy movement remain in prison. “An end to the embargo cannot be justified without significant improvement of human rights in China,“ reads the letter signed by twenty-four organizations. They call on the Beijing government to revise their position on the Tiananmen events; release prisoners of conscience; state that it will not use weapons against the people of China, Tibet, and Taiwan; negotiate with the Dalai Lama; adopt international human rights standards; and introduce moratorium on executions. The letter comes five days ahead of the EU-China summit.


Liu Jingsheng released; call for respect for human rights

Prague, November 27, 2004 – Olympic Watch has welcomed the release of Liu Jingsheng, the Chinese dissident. It has also called on the government of the People’s Republic of China to free other prisoners of conscience and to respect the human rights of the Chinese people. Liu Jingsheng was released after twelve years in prison earlier today.


Human rights organizations unveil “Minimum Standards for Beijing 2008”

Prague / Frankfurt / Washington, August 29, 2004 – Three human rights organizations have published a set of “minimum standards” that Beijing should meet in order to be a good host for the next Olympic Games. They argue that the situation in China contradicts the ideals of the Olympic Charter. If there is no progress by 2006, Olympic Watch, the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR / IGFM) and the Laogai Research Foundation will “assist the international community in finding alternative solutions”. Specifically, this coalition requests that the PRC ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the Beijing government signed six years ago. Other standards cover no use of military power against peaceful democratic action, moratorium on the death penalty, democracy for Hong Kong, talks with the Tibetan government-in-exile and the abolition of slave labor camps where people are sent without a trial.


Chinese, Tibetan exile and Olympic Watch call for moment of silence during Athens closing ceremony

Athens / Prague / Washington, August 26, 2004 – Prominent Chinese pro-democracy groups and Olympic Watch have joined Tibetan rights supporters in calling for a peaceful protest during the closing ceremony of the Athens Olympics this Sunday, 29 August. Athletes and spectators are being asked to demonstrate their support for human rights in China and Tibet by remaining silent during China’s presentation and the handover of the Olympic Flag from Athens to Beijing. Olympic Watch, the International Tibet Support Network and the Laogai Research Foundation are among those endorsing the action.


IOC asked to take a stand on Athens Olympics censorship

Prague / Frankfurt, August 10, 2004 – Two human rights organizations are calling on the International Olympic Committee to take a stand on an “attack on the freedom of speech” at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Olympic Watch and International Society for Human Rights (ISHR/IGFM) are “extremely concerned to hear that posters and other material promoting … Taiwan are being blocked from display at Athens International Airport and elsewhere in the city”. The news of posters being taken down and billboards being blocked has been reported by major international media over the past few days.


Olympic Watch: Hong Kong must remain free

Prague, June 30, 2004 – Olympic Watch has issued a statement today, calling on the Beijing government “to respect the wishes of Hong Kong citizens and to uphold its commitments from the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Hong Kong Basic Law”. The plea comes on the eve of the seventh anniversary of Hong Kong’s return under Chinese administration.


On Falun Dafa Day, Olympic Watch protests religious persecution

Prague, May 13, 2004 – On the occasion of the Falun Dafa Day, Olympic Watch (Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games in a Free and Democratic Country) has issued a statement today, condemning the religious persecution in the People’s Republic of China. "Olympic Watch condemns the ongoing violation of rights of Falun Gong practitioners, as well as of Tibetan Buddhists, Chinese Christians and followers of other spiritual movements. On this day, our thoughts go to all those who are being detained, tortured and otherwise persecuted for their peaceful activities," reads the statement signed by Jan Ruml, Chairman of Olympic Watch.


Olympic Watch refuses EU arms sales to China

Prague, March 19, 2004 – Jan Ruml, Chairman of Olympic Watch and Vice-Speaker of the Czech Senate, is sending a letter to foreign ministers of all EU Member States today, urging them not to lift the embargo on arms sales to the People’s Republic of China at the next EU summit. Olympic Watch has also called on its supporters worldwide to join the campaign with their own letters.


Olympic Watch: Prevent SARS through freedom of speech

Prague, January 9, 2004 – Olympic Watch (Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games in a Free and Democratic Country) has issued a statement today in which it responds to the latest cases of SARS in China. It calls on the government of the People’s Republic to China “to ensure the freedom of speech and access to information”, pointing out that “[t]his will be the only way to effectively curb the spread of the virus.”


Czech government accepts call for help to Tenzin Delek Rinpoche

Prague, December 15, 2003 – Six human rights organizations have called on the Czech government to help the Tibetan political prisoner, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. They did so through a letter that was handed over to Vice-Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary Cyril Svoboda by Jan Ruml, Vice-Speaker of the Senate and Chairman of Olympic Watch (Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games in a Free and Democratic Country) and Lubomir Sklenka, Chairman of the Lungta association, at the Foreign Affairs Ministry today.


Olympic Watch denounces fresh human rights abuses in China

Prague, November 19, 2003 – Olympic Watch (Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games in a Free and Democratic Country) has issued a statement in which it denounces “the latest wave of prison sentences for Chinese human rights advocates”. Jan Ruml, Acting Chairman of the Olympic Watch Committee, is sending the document to the government of the People’s Republic of China today.


Jan Ruml to speak at international conference on Tibet

Prague, October 18, 2003 – Jan Ruml, Acting Chairman of the Olympic Watch Committee, will welcome the participants of the international Tibet Support Groups conference in Prague in his capacity as Vice-Speaker of the Czech Senate. The opening ceremony hosts His Holiness the Dalai Lama and former Czechoslovak and Czech president Vaclav Havel as its guests of honor and takes place Sunday morning. Olympic Watch is one of the NGOs that participate in the conference.


Olympic Watch representatives meet IOC tonight at Prague’s Zofin

Prague, July 3, 2003. Jan Ruml, Acting President of the Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games in a Free and Democratic Country (Olympic Watch), Michael Zantovsky, and other representatives of the Committee will meet the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee tonight. The meeting will take place during the reception at Prague’s Zofin hall.

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