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Beijing Olympics Human rights abuses getting worse

July 31, 2008

Human rights activists in China are being detained to prevent them
from disrupting the Olympics, Amnesty International has claimed.
By Richard Spencer in Beijing
The Telegraph (UK)
July 29, 2008

In a report that alleges that repression has actually increased
rather than eased off as the Games approach, the group accuses China
of restricting human rights rather than using the Games as an
opportunity to improve the situation, as Beijing promised when it was
awarded the Olympics in 2001.

"The Olympic values have been betrayed by the Chinese government,"
said Tim Hancock, Amnesty's UK campaigns director. "They must release
all imprisoned peaceful activists, allow foreign and national
journalists to report freely and make further progress towards the
elimination of the death penalty - or risk permanently sullying the
legacy of the Olympics."

Amnesty's claims were rejected by the Chinese government. "Anybody
who knows about China will not agree on this report on the
deterioration of the Chinese human rights situation," said the
foreign ministry's chief spokesman, Liu Jianchao.

Although the International Olympic Committee refuses to link
political issues such as human rights to the Games, China made one
very public promise at the time it was awarded them seven years ago.

"We are confident that the Games coming to China not only promote our
economy but also enhance all social conditions, including education,
health and human rights," said Wang Wei, head of the bid committee.

But according to the Amnesty report, the authorities have extended
the use of imprisonment without trial - a legal measure called
"re-education through labour", and other means to keep protesters and
activists out of sight in the run-up to the Games.

"The Chinese authorities have locked up, put under house arrest, and
forcibly removed individuals they perceive may threaten the image of
'stability and harmony' they want to present to the world," Amnesty says.

It also alleges that the country still uses the death penalty for 68
criminal offences, including a number of non-violent crimes, and says
that the government has tightened control over foreign correspondents
since abandoning formal reporting restrictions in January last year.

It quoted the examples of protests and riots in Tibet in March, where
whole areas of the country were shut off from journalists as
widespread arrests were made, and the Sichuan earthquake, where an
opening up to the outside world was followed by a tightening as
journalists took up the cases of those with grievances against the government.

The report acknowledged there had been reforms to death penalty laws,
where higher courts have to validate sentences and have struck down a
substantial number, and in the agreement to abandon foreign
correspondents' restrictions at least until after the Games.

Mr Hancock called on high-profile visitors to the Games to put
pressure on the government to release prisoners of conscience. "World
leaders attending the Games, even if it's only the closing ceremony,
should send an unequivocal message that they support human rights for
the Chinese people," he said.
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