Chinas broken Olympic promises

Today marks the start of the ten-day countdown to the Olympic Games in Beijing and Amnesty has been studying the Chinese authorities’ human rights performance very carefully since they won the right to host the Games back in 2001. We haven’t liked what we’ve seen.

The Chinese government promised that the Olympics would help bring human rights to China. Wang Wei, Secretary General of the Beijing Olympic Bid Committee, said in 2001: “We will give the media complete freedom to report when they come to China. (…) We are confident that the Games coming to China not only promotes our economy but also enhances all social conditions, including education, health and human rights.”

But what we’ve seen is increasing repression. In preparation for the Games, the Chinese authorities have locked up, put under house arrest and forcibly removed individuals they believe may threaten the image of ‘stability’ and ‘harmony’ they want to present to the world. 

Our new report, “The Olympics Countdown: Broken Promises,” evaluates the performance of the Chinese authorities in four areas related to the core values of the Olympics: persecution of human rights activists, detention without trial, media censorship and the death penalty. You can find out more about the report here.

Local activists and journalists working on human rights issues in China are at particular risk of abuse during the Games. Human rights activist and writer Hu Jia is still serving a three-and-a-half year sentence for “inciting subversion” by writing about human rights and giving interviews to foreign media. Hu Jia suffers from liver disease due to a Hepatitis B infection but the authorities have prevented his family from taking him medicine. You can take action for him here. Other activists from outside the capital have been told not to go to Beijing in August.

The Chinese authorities have responded, accusing Amnesty of “wearing tinted glasses” (?) and failing to be objective. We’d love to have a dialogue with them about any areas where they feel Amnesty hasn’t been objective. Our report highlights the one area where they may have been some improvement, in a possible reduction in the use of the death penalty  – but as execution figures remain a state secret, it’s hard to verify (objectively). They could start by unblocking our website in China (you can’t even access it in the Olympics media area, reportedly) and allowing us access to the country.
 
Amnesty also releases False Start today, the last (and best, in my view) of our hard-hitting, animated viral films. It highlights the persecution of people who speak up for human rights in China, depicting a cartoon Olympic protester being shot by a Chinese security official. You can see it here.

We’ve also launched a new website – In both English and Chinese – called The China Debate (www.thechinadebate.org) which aims to raise awareness of human rights violations in China and promote a balanced debate on how improvements can be achieved.

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