China not keeping its word on human rights, report says
By Maureen Fan
The Washington Post
BEIJING — The 2008 Olympic Games have become a catalyst for more repression in China, not less, according to an Amnesty International report released Sunday and aimed at pressuring the Beijing government a year before the start of the world’s premier sporting event.
The 22-page report says China’s illegal detention and imprisonment of activists and other measures have overshadowed some modest reforms, including how the Chinese legal system reviews death-penalty cases and the loosening of some restrictions on the foreign press.
To win its first Olympics bid, China promised in 2001 to improve human rights, increase environmental protections and address the city’s traffic problems. The Games are expected to attract 500,000 visitors, including thousands of journalists, giving China a chance to showcase itself before a huge international audience.
In recent weeks, however, various groups have begun arguing that China has not done enough.
Last Wednesday, four American tourists were detained after unfurling a banner at a base camp on Mount Everest that read, “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008,” a play on the Beijing Olympics motto.
On the same day, French presidential candidate Segolene Royal said that if elected president, she would not rule out a boycott of the Olympics unless China used its influence with the government of Sudan to stop ongoing atrocities in the Darfur region. “All means must be used,” she said. China, a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, has major oil investments in Sudan.
Furious Chinese officials have accused critics of trying to politicize the Games.
“We believe that it’s against the goodwill of the people from all over the world to boycott or oppose Beijing’s hosting of the 2008 Olympics with any excuse or political reasons,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao, who promised that China would host a distinguished Olympics “with its unique characteristics.”
Amnesty International and others said the Olympics provide a rare opportunity to effect change in this image-conscious nation.
“It’s only about a year to go and we don’t see any genuine effort by the Chinese administration to improve human rights,” said T. Kumar, advocacy director for Asia and the Pacific for Amnesty International. “The efforts they’re taking are stopgap — the public statement about extra review for the death penalty, the additional movement for international journalists. It’s just enough to keep the criticism at bay.”
Chinese authorities have been using the Olympics to round up those they consider potential troublemakers, including human-rights defenders, housing activists, lawyers and people attempting to report on human-rights violations, the Amnesty report said.
Referring to the warnings of public-security officials that they might force drug users into yearlong rehabilitation programs, the Amnesty report said, “Fears remain that these abusive systems are being used to detain petty criminals, vagrants, drug addicts and others in order to ‘clean-up’ Beijing ahead of the Olympics.”
The report welcomed one official reform: the restoration of Supreme Court review of death-penalty cases. But Amnesty said it worried that a “limited paper review” would not expose human-rights violations such as police use of torture to obtain confessions.
Amnesty also took the International Olympic Committee to task for not living up to its stated commitment to act if it did not see progress on security, logistics or human rights.
IOC members have said they expect Beijing to keep its word. The organization, whose top leaders just returned from two weeks of meetings with the Chinese government in Beijing, said officials needed more time before commenting on the Amnesty report.