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US: Torch Arrival Illuminates Olympic Rights Abuses San Francisco Mayor Should Deplore Rights Crackdown in China

April 9, 2008

Human Rights Watch

(San Francisco, April 8, 2008) – San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom should
use the Olympic torch’s passage through San Francisco on Wednesday,
April 9 to defend the freedom of expression and assembly and to
highlight ongoing abuses in China linked to the Beijing Games, Human
Rights Watch said today.

San Francisco is the only North American city through which the Olympic
torch will pass. Despite the ongoing crackdown in Tibet, recent jailing
of leading human rights advocates in China, and other abuses that are
taking place as a result of the 2008 Games in Beijing, the mayor
continues to call hosting the relay an “extraordinary honor” and insists
hosting the flame is about sports, not politics.

For months, activists have called on officials in San Francisco to
release information about the route of the torch relay so that they
could plan protests. Initially they were told by the Mayor’s Office and
other city officials that the route had yet to be determined by the
Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (BOCOG), and the City
of San Francisco could not yet release information about the route.
Protests, they were told, would be limited to designated “free-speech
zones.” On April 1, after being pressured by the ACLU of Northern
California and Human Rights Watch, the city finally released details of
the torch route and the mayor publicly assured protesters they would
have access along the entire route.

“The City of San Francisco has finally reversed course to be more
transparent about Olympic torch relay details,” said Kenneth Roth,
executive director of Human Rights Watch, who will be in the Bay Area
this week. “Now is the moment for the mayor and other leading San
Francisco officials to also find a public voice about ongoing human
right violations in China today.”

Tibet activists have been protesting outside San Francisco City Hall
since the crackdown in Tibetan areas began in mid-March. On April 7,
three members of Students for a Free Tibet scaled the Golden Gate Bridge
to unfurl banners. The torch relay has ignited similar protests in
previous host cities, including Athens, London, and Paris. The Olympic
torch was scheduled to tour 21 nations; the next slated city stops are
Buenos Aries and Dar es Salaam.

Human Rights Watch has called for the Olympic torch not to go through
the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, as scheduled on June 20-21 unless the
Chinese government agrees to an independent investigation into its
repression of protests there in March 2008
(http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/03/24/china18334.htm).

Over the past year, Human Rights Watch has documented numerous abuses in
China tied to Beijing’s hosting of the 2008 Summer Games
(http://china.hrw.org/), including media and internet censorship,
extrajudicial house arrests and sentences on charges of state subversion
of government critics, abuses of migrant construction workers, forced
evictions, and the ongoing crackdown on protests in Tibet. Last week,
leading human rights advocate Hu Jia was given a three-and-a-half-year
sentence for criticizing the Chinese government in the context of the
Games. Previously, Yang Chunlin received a five-year sentence for having
begun a petition titled, “We want human rights, not the Olympics.”

“One goal of awarding China the Olympics was to improve human rights in
China and Beijing’s adherence to international standards,” said Roth.
“As the Olympic torch relay makes its way around the world, leaders
should not be emulating the Chinese government in its opposition to
peaceful dissent and protests.”

Human Rights Watch does not support a boycott of the Olympics, but
rather urges the Chinese government to fulfill its human rights
commitments, particularly those made in order to win the right to host
these Games. Human Rights Watch also urges protestors not to use any
form of violence in expressing their views and security officials to
exercise restraint.

For more information, please contact:
In San Francisco, Libby Marsh (English): +1-415-362-3250
In Washington, DC, Sophie Richardson (English, Mandarin):
+1-202-612-4341; or +1-917-721-7473 (mobile)
In New York City, Minky Worden (English, Cantonese): +1-212-216-1250; or
+1-917-497-0540 (mobile)
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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