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Around the World, Activists Assemble to Press China on Rights

July 10, 2008

By Robin Shulman,  Staff Writer
The Washington Post (USA)
July 9, 2008; A10

NEW YORK, July 8 -- Marking the one-month countdown to the start of
the Beijing Olympic Games, activists gathered here and in cities
around the world Tuesday to call on China to ease crackdowns on
dissenters and release political prisoners.

A coalition of advocates met at City Hall in Lower Manhattan to
announce the launch of a 24-hour appeal for China to release
prisoners -- including journalists, bloggers and artists -- before
the Olympics opening ceremony on Aug. 8. "It would show goodwill
toward keeping promises they made in 2001 to the International
Olympic Committee that they have not yet kept," said Lucie Morillon,
Washington director of Reporters Without Borders, which helped
organize the appeal.

Campaigns also were launched in Melbourne, Australia; Toronto and
Vancouver, Canada; Hong Kong; Berlin; and other cities.

The protesters included Chinese democracy activists who are working
with Tibetan independence advocates as well as campaigners pressing
China to influence its ally Sudan to stop the killings in Darfur.
They were joined by advocates for journalists and artists.

The Chinese government had been counting on the Olympics to provide
an international showcase for the country's economic growth and
development. But the Games have also focused attention on China's
poor human rights record.

Activists report that in recent months, the Chinese government has
expanded its controls: Foreign reporters have had difficulty getting
visas, police have briefly detained dissidents during pre-Olympic
sweeps, and police have warned activists who live outside the capital
against traveling to Beijing.

"There are two Chinas in China," said Yang Jianli, who spent five
years in prison after he attempted to address a workers' rally. "One,
the Chinese government wants to showcase to outsiders. Another, the
government does not want other people to see. Since my release last
year, I cannot forget the political prisoners I left behind."

Global concern has grown since Chinese security forces cracked down
harshly on protesters in Tibet in March.

Some world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, have said they will not attend
the Games' opening ceremony. President Bush reiterated Sunday at the
Group of Eight summit in Japan that he plans to attend.

"I feel so sad that most of the political leaders -- they are going
to go to the opening ceremony of the Games with Chinese Communist
Party leaders," said Baiqiao Tang, speaking Tuesday at City Hall in
Manhattan. He said he had protested in 1989 at Beijing's Tiananmen
Square and was imprisoned afterward.

Activists have called for demonstrations outside Chinese embassies
during the Olympics opening, and Reporters Without Borders is staging
a cyber-demonstration on its Web site.
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