China: New report shows human rights abuses blighting countdown to Olympics

Launch of ‘Human Rights for China’ campaign

Amnesty International has today (7 August) warned that human rights abuses in China are blighting the countdown to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as it published a new China report on the eve of the “one year to go” mark.

With international interest in China growing in the run-up to the games, which begin in the Chinese capital on 8 August 2008, the human rights organisation has also launched a new ‘’Human Rights for China” campaign to press for reform ahead of the event.

Amnesty International has been closely monitoring China’s human rights performance after the country’s Olympics bid committee promised improvements in the run-up to the event. The organisation is asking members of the public to participate in its “Human Rights for China” campaign, including by going online and taking action on behalf of Chinese individuals at risk.

Copies of the new report have been sent to the Chinese authorities as well as the International Olympic Committee, with Amnesty International emphasising that these issues are directly relevant to Beijing’s hosting of the Olympics and core principles contained in the Olympic Charter.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“This report is a disturbing reminder of how far China still has to go to make good its promise to use the Olympics as a spur to improving human rights.

“With journalists, lawyers and activists being imprisoned, with the internet heavily controlled and censored, and with even housing rights campaigners being locked up for complaining about people evicted from their homes to make way for the games, the situation is extremely serious.

“To put it mildly, China would win no medals for human rights today.

“We’re urging the Chinese government to ensure that Beijing ‘08 will deliver a marvellous Olympic games but also deliver genuine improvements in human rights for China.”

One case focused on in Amnesty International’s report is that of housing rights activist, Ye Guozhu, sentenced to four years in prison after he tried to organise a demonstration in 2004 against alleged forced evictions in Beijing in connection with preparations for the Olympics. Mr Ye is also serving a ten-month period of ‘discipline’ within Qingyuan prison in connection with his ongoing attempts to appeal against his conviction. Amnesty International remains seriously concerned for his safety, particularly following reports that he has been beaten by guards armed with electro-shock batons.

Another case featured is that of 35-year-old legal advisor Chen Guangcheng, who is blind, who was given a prison sentence of four years and three months last year for campaigning against forced abortions and sterilisations. According to recent reports, Mr Chen has been severely beaten by fellow inmates on the orders of prison guards.

The report also highlights the continued use of detention without trial as part of Beijing's "clean up" operations of the city ahead of the games. Several Beijing-based activists are under “house arrest” and tight police surveillance, while activists in other parts of China are also facing heightened patterns of abuse.

Amnesty International’s report highlights an ongoing crackdown on journalists, pervasive internet censorship, and continued concerns about China’s highly secretive and widespread use of the death penalty. Last year China is known to have executed over 1,000 people - more than all other countries in the world combined - though China refuses to publish official execution statistics and is believed to secretly execute as many as 8,000 prisoners every year (the equivalent of 22 people every day).

In its report, Amnesty International welcomed recent statements by China’s Supreme Court officials expressing the need for greater transparency on the death penalty and unified criteria for imposing death sentences, but urged officials to publish full national statistics on death sentences and executions and reduce the scope of its use as first steps to eventual abolition of the penalty.

View latest press releases