China's human rights record has come under fire from
all parts of the globe [GALLO/GETTY]
China's foreign minister has said human rights groups that cite the Beijing Games in their criticisms of the Chinese government were violating the Olympic charter.

Yang Jiechi said China was willing to work with those who bring constructive criticisms and suggestions on how to do a better job of holding the Olympic Games, scheduled for August, but refused to make any concessions on the human rights issues which the communist regime is charged with.

"We welcome suggestions and criticisms offered out of goodwill,'' Yang said at a news conference held annually on the fringes of the legislature's two-week session.

But he said, with more than a hint of aggression, those who "want to tarnish the image of China ... they will never get their way.''

China is under fire from a wide range of activists and foreign politicians who are using the Olympics to draw attention to China's policies toward Africa, Tibet and other minorities at home, as well as restrictions on free speech, religion, and legal redress.

Chinese officials have castigated such moves, calling them attempts to exaggerate problems and politicise the games.

The government has also seemingly made little progress on the issues it said it would deal with when being awarded the Olympics.

"I want to say, that not to politicise the Olympic Games is required by the Olympic charter,'' Yang said.

"For those people who attack China, they often talk about the importance of laws and regulations. Then why are they violating the Olympic charter.''

Yang said that despite criticisms, the international community and foreign leaders were broadly supportive of the Beijing Games.

"They have demonstrated profound friendship to the Chinese people,'' Yang said.

More clean air promises

Yang also reiterated previous statements that Beijing's fetid air would be cleaned up by the August 8 start of the Olympics.

His assurances followed an announcement earlier this week by world marathon record-holder Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia that he would almost certainly skip the long-distance running event in Beijing because of the city's poor air quality.

China has been on the constant defensive over the level of its air pollution.

With the Olympics around the corner, a muddy haze blankets the capital of Beijing on most days.

"I believe the air quality will only become better and better in Beijing,'' Yang said.

Unfortunately for China believing it will improve, doesn't seem to be making it so.

Source: Agencies