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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

EU parliament chief calls for Olympics protest

August 6, 2008

Honor Mahony
August 4, 2008

European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering has called on
athletes taking part in the Beijing Olympics to protest against the
human rights situation in Tibet.

In an article in German newspaper Bild am Sonntag on Sunday (3
August), the centre-right politician said that love of sports should
not be an excuse to overlook human rights issues.

The Beijing Olympics have been surrounded by controversy over human
rights issues (Photo: Reporters Without Borders)

"I would like to encourage the athletes, men and women, to look at
things as they are, and not to turn away. Each athlete can, in their
own way, give a signal," he wrote, with the international sporting
event due to start on Friday in the Chinese capital.

"It is our duty not to forget the people of Tibet, who are fighting
for their cultural survival."

Mr Poettering's comments come amid general political uproar in
Germany over internet censorship for foreign media after Chinese
authorities reneged on previous promises to allow unrestricted
internet access to the thousands of journalists covering the Games.

"I do not understand why the Chinese government once again limited
internet access and sparked international scepticism," German foreign
minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Der Spiegel news magazine.

The International Olympic Committee has also come under pressure in
the row, accused of cutting a deal on internet access with the
Chinese government.

"The IOC never really took a clear stance and didn't really press the
Chinese to stick to the promises they made on human rights and press
freedom," said Barbara Lochbiler, the head of Amnesty International's
Germany section, in an interview with German newspaper Neue
Osnabruecker Zeitung, reports Deutsche Welle.

For his part, head of the IOC Jacques Rogge, who has been put in an
embarrassing position after last week promising the world's media
that there would be open internet access in China during the Games,
said over the weekend that no deal had been cut with Beijing on
internet access.

"I am not going to apologize for something the IOC is not responsible
for. We are not running the internet in China," Mr Rogge said.

The human rights situation in China and its crackdown on Tibetan
protestors earlier this year have given the games a controversial
tinge for months with commentators divided on whether China should
ever have been granted the rights to host the Olympics.

In April, the European Parliament adopted a resolution suggesting
that the Olympic Games opening ceremony be uniformly boycotted by EU
leaders if Beijing does not open talks with the Dalai Lama, Tibet's
spiritual leader.

However most EU leaders have not taken a stand, with EU trade
commissioner Peter Mandelson in Spring urging a pragmatic approach to
the issue.

"We can and should insist on our values and our concerns. But we must
also not lose sight of the fact that we are bound to work with China,
to live alongside China, to help China succeed," said the commissioner.
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