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Beijing Olympics can't avoid political issues (New Zealand Herald)
12. Beijing Olympics can't avoid political issues (New Zealand Herald)
5:00AM Wednesday August 08, 2007
By Clifford Coonan
The New Zealand Herald
With just over a year to go until the Beijing Olympics, human rights
groups have slammed a growing crackdown on Chinese human rights
activists and journalists as well as the continued use of 'laojiao' or
're-education through labour' and other forms of detention without trial.
Activists have also attacked the way in which people are being forced
out of their homes in traditional hutong laneways to make way for
Olympic developments, often without getting adequate compensation. And
they say Beijing has failed to meet its promises on ensuring media freedom.
The one-year countdown starts today but the chorus of disapproval from
human rights groups shows the huge public relations challenge the
Amnesty International said in a report issued yesterday that while
positive steps have been made, namely reform of the death penalty system
and greater reporting freedom for foreign journalists, it remained
concerned these were overshadowed by other negative developments.
"The image of the Olympics continues to be tarnished by ongoing reports
of the 'house arrest', torture or unfair trial of Chinese activists and
the extension of systems for detention without trial in Beijing as part
of the city's 'clean-up' ahead of August 2008," Amnesty said in the report.
Amnesty's release came as six activists were detained yesterday after
scaling down a part of the Great Wall with a large banner that read "One
World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008", the London-based Free Tibet Campaign
and Students for a Free Tibet said in an email statement.
And on Monday, police detained journalists at a rare protest in Beijing
staged by a free-press advocacy group that accused the Chinese
government of failing to meet pledges for greater media freedom. The
detentions, which came during a visit to Beijing by International
Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, followed the unfurling of
posters depicting the Olympic rings made from handcuffs by members of
Reporters Without Borders on a pedestrian bridge outside the
headquarters of the Beijing Olympics planning committee.
Rogge repeated his oft-cited mantra that the games would be a
"significant force for good", but could hardly be expected to resolve
all the issues facing the country. And he reiterated that the IOC was a
sports organisation first and foremost.
"We are not a government, we are not the representative of all the NGOs
of the world.
"We believe the Games are going to move ahead the agenda of the social
and human rights as far as possible, the Games are going to be a force
for good. But the Games are not a panacea."
He said it was "absolutely legitimate" for non-governmental
organisations and human rights groups to bring attention to their causes
both now and when the games take place.
But members of Reporters Without Borders said the authorities had
"kidnapped" the event.
Wearing tee-shirts showing the Olympic rings turned into handcuffs, four
activists from the media freedom group held an unauthorised news
conference outside the organisers headquarters in Beijing.
"You cannot hold such a big sports event as the Olympic Games in the
shadow of Chinese prisons," the group's secretary-general Robert Menard
"The authorities have kidnapped these games. The official slogan, 'One
world, one dream,' sounds more and more hollow.
"This is not about spoiling the party, quite the contrary. But Beijing
has not kept its promises to improve the human rights situation and yet
continues cynically to refer to the Olympic spirit."
There was an example of censorship of foreign media at work yesterday
when a CNN broadcast which referred to the issue of media freedom in
China was blocked by censors.
A senior member of the Beijing organising committee, Jiang Xiaoyu, said
he was unworried by the criticisms, and pointed to the positive response
to regulations introduced at the start of the year to ease reporting
restrictions for foreign journalists.
"We have already heard many different voices from many different sides,
and we are mentally prepared for these voices to get louder and even
reach a crescendo," he said.
"But we absolutely oppose the politicisation of the Olympics, as this
does not accord with the Olympic spirit," said Mr Jiang.
Mr Rogge said his main concern was the environment and particularly air
pollution in the Chinese capital, but he said he was confident that
measures undertaken by the Beijing government to rid the city of
pollution over the last few years and special measures in August next
year would deliver clean air.
* China continues to restrict press freedoms and lock up journalists,
political dissidents and activists despite pledges to liberalise made
when bidding to stage the games.
* China's frequent use of the death penalty remains shrouded in secrecy.
* Police are increasingly using their powers of detention without trial
to deal with critics and undesirables, intensifying abuses against human
rights activists, and harassing the lawyers and legal advisers who seek
to protect them.
* The report's release comes a day after police detained journalists at
a rare protest in Beijing staged by a free-press advocacy group that
accused the Chinese government of failing to meet pledges for greater
media freedom, and on the same day Chinese police detained six
protesters who unveiled a banner on the Great Wall calling for a free Tibet.
Articles in this Issue:
- Tibetan Canadian Observer detained in Beijing (SFT)
- One World, One Dream, One Big Human Rights Problem (Der Spiegel)
- Unlucky start to Games countdown (Scotsman)
- Great Wall protest (Vancouver Sun)
- China detains third Canadian, a leader of activist group seeking free
- 3rd Canadian detained by China, student group says (CBC)
- Activists arrested in China (The Province)
- Protesters in action as Beijing gets set for one-year countdown to
- Parents worried after 2 Vancouverites reportedly held in China (CBC)
- Canadians detained in China now leaving country, reports say
- Activists Step Up Criticism of China, One Year Before Beijing
- Beijing Olympics can't avoid political issues (New Zealand Herald)
- China: Human-Rights Pressure Increases As Olympic Countdown Begins
- Thousands of Tibetans march in Indian capital against China's rule
in Tibet (AP)
- Tibetans protest 2008 Beijing Olympics (ANI)
- Tibetans to hold massive rally against Chinese government (IANS)
- Indian Tibetans march to shame Olympics host China (Reuters)
- Terror in Tibet
- Sinopec establishes exploration base in Tibet
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