China Olympics 'catalyst' for abuse

Human rights group says abuses worsening in run-up to 2008 Beijing games.

    China is stepping up preparations as the
    countdown to the games continues [EPA]
    The group said forced evictions to make way for Olympic projects were a particular worry, which the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should raise with the Chinese government.
     

    "The IOC cannot want an Olympics that is tainted with human rights abuses"

    Catherine Baber,
    Amnesty International

    It said many people who had protested the evictions faced detention and harassment by the Chinese authorities.
     
    The report's authors called on the IOC to make public concerns about human rights, adding "the Olympics is apparently acting as a catalyst to extend the use of detention without trial".
     
    The report was also critical of the continued use of the "re-education through labour" system, which allows police to jail a crime suspect for up to four years without trial.
     
    "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 said.
     
    "The IOC cannot want an Olympics that is tainted with human rights abuses - whether families forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for sports arenas or growing numbers of peaceful activists held under 'house arrest' to stop them drawing attention to human rights issues," Catherine Baber, Amnesty's deputy Asia Pacific director, said.
     
    Al Jazeera's Beijing

    correspondent Tony Cheng says that aside from a few acknowledgments that there have been small improvements, the report provides little evidence of how the situation is tied to the Olympics.

     

    Stability

     

    China says it is fulfilling all commitments it
    made in its bid for the games [Reuters]

    He says Amnesty even states that China has an "overriding pre-occupation with stability and a good social environment" which seems like a strange failing for a government trying to lift a fifth of the worlds population out of poverty, without creating too much social upheaval.

    Our corresponent says China has hundreds of millions of people who have missed out on China's economic booms, leaving them with one of the most polluted environments in the World, facing huge official corruption and rapid inflation - issues which are barely touched in the report.

    In its report Amnesty said that while measures to refer all death sentences to China's Supreme Court and new rules for foreign journalists were both welcome moves, those gains had been outweighed by continuing abuses in other areas.
     
    "The failure to ensure equal rights and freedoms for both foreign and domestic journalists smacks of double standards," said Baber.
     
    China, she said, had "yet to meet its promise to ensure 'complete media freedom'" for the Olympics.
     
    Bias
     
    In December China announced new regulations for foreign journalists which temporarily abolished decades-old rules requiring them to obtain government approval for all travel and interviews.
     
    China has yet to react to this latest Amnesty report, but has denounced previous reports from the human rights group saying it is fulfilling all the commitments made in its bid for the games and accusing Amnesty of being biased against the Chinese government.
     
    During the bidding process 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.

     

    Our correspondent in Beijing says that while there are many things wrong in modern China, many will feel it is unfair to link them, without good cause, to the one thing that is a source of pride and optimism to most people in this country, namely the 2008 Olympics.

     
    Giselle Davies, an IOC spokeswoman, described the Amnesty report as "comprehensive" but told the Associated Press the games' governing body would "want to take the time to digest it before making any further reaction".

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera + Agencies


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