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China Silences Critics as Olympics Near, Report Says

July 10, 2008

By Jeremy Gerard
July 8, 2008

One month before the Aug. 8 start of the Summer Olympics in Beijing,
PEN, an international writers' group that monitors human rights
abuses, accused the Chinese government of waging a ``grinding and
relentless campaign to jail or silence prominent dissident voices.''

In a report released jointly today by three branches of PEN, the
organization attacked China for reneging on promises to improve its
human rights record.

"In June we wrote to President Bush and Secretary of State Rice,"
Larry Siems, director of the PEN American Center's Freedom to Write
and International Programs, said in an interview. ``We told them
that, while three of the 40 dissident Chinese writers we had been
watching had been released from prison since last December, nine more
have been detained."

During the intense competition to win the right to host the games,
the People's Republic of China vowed to reverse its record of
suppressing government critics through harassment and imprisonment.
Over the past several months, though, human rights abuses, including
crackdowns on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tibet, have received
increased coverage in the mainstream press and on the Internet.

Officials at the Chinese embassy in Washington and the consulate
office in New York didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.


PEN's assessment of human rights in China during the run-up to the
Olympics, called ``Failing to Deliver: An Olympic-Year Report Card on
Free Expression in China,'' was issued by the PEN American Center,
PEN Canada and the Independent Chinese PEN Center.

In addition, the annual report of the Observatory for the Protection
of Human Rights Defenders, a joint effort of human rights groups
based in Paris and Geneva, quotes Chinese writer Wei Jingsheng, who
claims that ``the Chinese Government's repression has rapidly
upgraded, in an effort to make sure there are no dissident voices
from the people during the 2008 Olympics."

The Observatory report was released on June 18.

The PEN report cites several arrests of writers in recent months.
Notable among them are Zeng Hongling, arrested June 9 after
publishing articles about the May 12 earthquake in China, and Huang
Qi, a dissident Internet journalist and founder of the Tianwang Human
Rights Center, who was arrested on June 10.


PEN said in the report that "there is also increasing evidence of an
organized effort to restrict movement of dissidents and writers to
keep them from meeting freely with international observers before and
during the Olympics.''

Siems and his counterparts at the other PEN branches insist it's not
too late for China to make amends by releasing all dissident writers.

To contact the writer on this story: Jeremy Gerard in New York at
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
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