China: Promises broken and Olympic values betrayed, says new Amnesty report

The Chinese authorities have broken their promise to improve the country’s human rights situation and betrayed the core values of the Olympics, said Amnesty International in a new report published today, marking the 10-day countdown to the Games.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:

“The Chinese authorities have broken the promises they made when they were granted the Olympics seven years ago. They told the world that the Olympics would help bring human rights to China, but the government continues to persecute and punish those who speak out for human rights ahead of the Games.

“The Olympic values have been betrayed by the Chinese government. They must release all imprisoned peaceful activists, allow foreign and national journalists to report freely and make further progress towards the elimination of the death penalty – or risk permanently sullying the legacy of the Olympics.”

Amnesty International’s 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, censorship and the death penalty.

Download the full report (pdf)

It concludes that in most of these areas human rights have continued to deteriorate in the run-up to the Olympics. In preparation for the Games, the Chinese authorities have locked up, put under house arrest, and forcibly removed individuals they perceive may threaten the image of ‘stability’ and ‘harmony’ they want to present to the world.

In 2001, when China was granted the hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games, Wang Wei, Secretary General of the Beijing Olympic Bid Committee said: “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 promote our economy but also enhances all social conditions, including education, health and human rights.”

Amnesty also releases False Start today, a new, hard-hitting, animated viral film. It highlights the persecution of people who speak up for human rights in China, depicting an animated Olympic protester being shot by a Chinese security official.

Amnesty International believes that 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 continues to serve 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 providing him with medicine in the prison.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) President, Jacques Rogge, recently claimed the IOC’s quiet diplomacy had led to several human rights reforms, including the new regulations for foreign media.

Tim Hancock said:
“The IOC’s confidence that foreign media will be able to report freely and that there will be no Internet censorship is quite surprising. But it’s good that the IOC recognises its role on human rights: they must follow this up by speaking out when the authorities violate the wider Olympic principles.

“World leaders attending the Games – even if it’s only the closing ceremony - should send an unequivocal message that they support human rights for the Chinese people. They should highlight the cases of individual Chinese human rights activists who have been silenced by the authorities. A failure to do so will give the impression that it is acceptable for a government to host the Olympic Games in an atmosphere of repression and persecution.”

Amnesty International’s report concludes that:

- Many human rights defenders continue to be held in prisons across China and under house arrest; others are tightly monitored by police to ensure they will not disrupt the Olympics in any way.

- The Chinese authorities have extended the use of punitive administrative detention – including
“Re-education through Labour” and “Enforced Drug Rehabilitation” – to “clean up” Beijing before the start of the Olympics and ensure activists stay out of sight during the Games.

- Temporary media regulations that were supposed to allow greater freedom of reporting for foreign media have not been fully implemented. The Foreign Correspondents Club of China reported 260 cases of reporting interference since 1 January 2007. The regulations do not extend to Chinese journalists who continue to be prevented from publishing stories on issues deemed sensitive by the government.

- The death penalty continues to be used for some 68 crimes, including some non-violent crimes such as economic and drug-related offences. Despite assurances that the number of executions has dropped since the Supreme People's Court reinstated the review process, the Chinese authorities have not published actual figures.

- Liu Jie, a rural activist, was detained in Beijing and assigned to 18 months “Re-education Through Labour” (RTL) in Heilongjiang province, northeast China, where local sources say she has been physically abused for having organised a public letter urging leaders to carry out political and legal reforms, including abolition of RTL.

- In June 2008, the police detained Sichuan-based human rights activist Huang Qi on suspicion of “illegally acquiring state secrets”. Huang had been involved in assisting the families of five primary school pupils to bring a legal case against the local authorities. The five pupils died when school buildings collapsed in the earthquake in Sichuan in May.

Download the full report (pdf)

View latest press releases