Report: China not improving human rights for Games

Updated: September 20, 2006, 8:15 PM ET
Associated Press

BEIJING -- China has failed to live up to promises its leaders made to improve human rights for the 2008 Olympics, Amnesty International said in a report urging the International Olympic Committee to ensure that the Chinese comply.

The report, released Thursday, catalogs a broad range of persistent human rights abuses, from the widespread use of the death penalty and the extraction of organs from executed prisoners for transplants, to the persecution of civil rights activists and new methods to rein in the media and censor the Internet. The report also said Beijing is forcing people from homes to make way for Olympic-related construction projects.

"Serious human rights violations continue to be reported across the country, fueling instability and discontent," the London-based group's report said. "Grass-roots human rights activists continue to be detained and imprisoned, and official controls over the media and the Internet are growing tighter."

Amnesty International called on the Chinese government to enact reforms. It also urged the IOC and the Olympics "to put pressure on Chinese authorities" to release political prisoners, take steps toward ending the death penalty and repeal restrictions on the free flow of information.

China's foreign ministry didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

The IOC said that with nearly two years to go it was too early to take China to task and that the Olympic governing body was not a political pressure group.

"It's premature to say that China has failed to live up to its pledges to hold a successful Games," IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said. "We don't work by putting pressure. That's not our methodology."

Though many of the ills cited by the group have been endemic for years in China, the report underscores an uncomfortable contradiction: While the world was promised that a Beijing Games would bolster respect for human rights, the Communist leadership appears to be digging in its heels.

Over the past three years, Chinese leaders have mounted the most sustained clampdown on dissent since the quelling of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989. Aside from political and religious dissidents, the government has taken steps to intimidate new groups, such as activist lawyers and scholars, while aggressively scouring the Internet for political essayists and firing and detaining reporters and editors.

The suppression campaign stands in contrast to China's continued buildup of a vibrant economy and a dynamic society with a burgeoning middle class -- changes Beijing hopes to showcase at the Olympics.

In bidding for the games in 2001, Chinese leaders promised IOC members that the Olympics would lead to an improved climate for human rights and media freedoms.

"By allowing Beijing to host the games you will help the development of human rights," Amnesty International quoted Liu Jingmin, a vice president of the Beijing bid committee and now a senior official in charge of preparations for the games, as saying in 2001.

IOC members also have said they expect Beijing to keep its word.

Beijing's effort to build state-of-the-art venues and transportation facilities and remake run-down neighborhoods has contributed to civil rights abuses, the Amnesty International report said. It cited the cases of Ye Guozhu and Qi Zhiyong, Beijing residents subjected to forced evictions as the city undergoes an Olympic makeover.

Jailed for trying to organize a protest, Ye has been tortured while in detention, hung from the ceiling by his arms, beaten with electric batons and put in handcuffs and leg irons, the report said. Qi, whose leg was amputated after he was shot by security forces in the 1989 crackdown, was detained for 51 days this year for taking part in a different protest, and the business license for his small shop was revoked, it said.

In May, city authorities suggested that to ensure order in Beijing they may detain people in prison camps without trial, a form of punishment for minor crimes known as "reform through labor," the report said.

Last week, a meeting between city officials and experts discussed expelling many of the 1 million migrant laborers in Beijing and forcibly hospitalizing the mentally ill for the games.

Amnesty International said it was concerned detention without trial would be increasingly used "under the guise of cleaning up the city for the Olympics."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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