China: Amnesty open letter urges president Hu Jintao to take five steps to improve human rights ahead of Olympics

Amnesty International will issue an open letter, to Chinese President Hu Jintao, from Amnesty Secretary General Irene Khan on Tuesday 8 July, exactly one month ahead of the opening of the Beijing Olympics. The letter outlines five steps that Amnesty believes the Chinese authorities must take towards the “development of human rights” promised by the Beijing Olympics Bid Committee in 2001.

Amnesty will also release the next in its series of hard-hitting viral animations, “Pole Vault”, to mark the one-month countdown to the Olympic Games. Amnesty hopes the online film will encourage people in the UK and around the world to join their campaign for much needed human rights reform in the country. The film can be seen at https://www.amnesty.org.uk/china/videos.asp .

The five steps outlined in Amnesty’s open letter are: (1) releasing all prisoners of conscience; (2) preventing arbitrary detention of protesters and others as part of an “Olympics clean-up”; (3) publishing national statistics on executions, reducing the number of capital offences and introducing a moratorium on executions; (4) allowing free access and reporting to both Chinese and domestic journalists; and (5) accounting for those killed and detained in the recent Tibetan protests and ensuring that those still held are given a fair trial or are released.

The letter also highlights the negative impact on human rights of China’s preparations for the Games. This includes the ongoing persecution of human rights activists, such as Ye Guozhu, Hu Jia and Yang Chunlin, who have made connections between human rights issues and the Olympics; and the ‘clean up’ of Beijing through the extended use of ‘Re-education Through Labour’, a form of detention without charge or trial.

Irene Khan concludes her letter with a positive hope for the Olympic legacy:
“I believe that delivering on these five points will go a long way towards the Games being remembered not only for positive achievements on the sports field but in the field of human rights as well.”

Full text of the letter is as follows:
With one month remaining until the much-anticipated start of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing, I ask you to take five steps toward the “development of human rights” pledged by the Beijing Olympics Bid Committee in 2001. Over the last year Amnesty International has collected hundreds of thousands of voices from around the world echoing this call. I join them in urging you to take this historic opportunity to act.

Amnesty International recognizes the Chinese government’s efforts to address some longstanding human rights concerns. I am particularly encouraged by the apparent progress made in reducing the use of the death penalty through the Supreme Peoples’ Court review process. I also appreciate recent statements by a number of Chinese officials, including Chief Justice Xiao Yang, that China is following the global trend towards abolishing the death penalty. Amnesty International also welcomes the news that 1,157 people held in connection with the protests in Tibetan-populated areas of China last March have been released. The official commitment to “full media freedom” and regulations for foreign journalists represents another step towards realising greater freedom of expression for journalists.

These developments notwithstanding, the preparation for the Olympics has actually had a negative impact in some areas of human rights. Official persecution of human rights activists continues, particularly those making connections between ongoing human rights violations and China’s hosting of the Olympics, including Ye Guozhu, Hu Jia and Yang Chunlin who are serving prison sentences solely for having expressed their views peacefully. The “clean-up” of Beijing through the extended use of Re-education Through Labour is a worrying development, particularly as it ignores domestic calls for reform of this arbitrary system of detention.

Amnesty International calls on you to grasp the opportunity of the Olympic Games to implement the following five recommendations—supported by many inside and outside China—before the Games begin:

Release all prisoners of conscience - including Ye Guozhu, Hu Jia, Yang Chunlin and any others detained in connection with the hosting of the Olympics solely for expressing their views peacefully;

Prevent the police from arbitrarily detaining petitioners, human rights activists and others as part of a pre-Olympics "clean-up";

Publish full national statistics on the death penalty, commit to a reduction in the number of capital crimes – especially those for non-violent offences – and introduce a moratorium on executions in line with UN General Assembly resolution 62/149 adopted on 18 December 2007;

Allow full access and freedom of reporting for both Chinese and international journalists in all parts of China in line with promises of "complete media freedom" in the run-up to the Games;

Account for all those killed or detained in the wake of the March 2008 protests in Tibet, particularly 116 people officially acknowledged to still be in custody, and ensure that those detained for their involvement in peaceful protests are released and that others receive a fair trial.

I believe that delivering on these five points will go a long way towards the Games being remembered not only for positive achievements on the sports field but in the field of human rights as well.

Yours sincerely, Irene Khan

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