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China: Six months until the Olympics and human rights have not improved

With tomorrow (8 February) marking six months until the start of the Beijing Olympics, Amnesty International today said that it had seen little improvement in human rights in the country, despite China’s promises when bidding for the 2008 Olympics.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:

“As the Beijing Olympics approaches, the world’s attention is shifting increasingly to China - and the authorities need to think very carefully about what people are going to find.

“Promises to improve human rights have not been kept and if anything things are getting worse – we’re deeply worried that activists and journalists are being locked up or harassed to silence them. And there are concerns that the streets of Beijing are being ‘cleaned up’ by throwing undesirables into ‘Re-education Through Labour’ camps without any trial.

“The Olympics should be a celebration of sporting achievement and should respect Olympian values like the preservation of human dignity. If China does not make urgent reforms, August will provide a grim realisation of how far China still has to come on human rights.”

Amnesty welcomed the release of Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong earlier this week. But it deplored the formal arrest of human rights activist Hu Jia earlier this month and called for his immediate release.

Amnesty International is calling on the Chinese government to fulfill its promise to develop human rights as part of the Olympic legacy. The organisation has identified four key areas of concern that must be addressed in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in August.

Death Penalty
The Chinese authorities should significantly reduce the use of the death penalty in China as a step towards abolition. By the end of 2008, measures should include:
- the regular publication of official statistics on the total number of death sentences and executions, consistently providing families and lawyers of those sentenced to death with access to them as well as to administrative and procedural information
- reducing the number of capital offences with substantial reforms in regard to nonviolent crimes.

Justice and detention
The Chinese authorities should ensure that all forms of detention in China are in accordance with international human rights law, including measures to uphold the rights to fair trial and to prevent torture. By the end of 2008, this should include:
- abolishing Re-education Through Labour, Enforced Drug Rehabilitation and Custody and Education, ensuring that decisions on detention are no longer exclusively in the hands of the police;
- ensuring that these systems are not used in relation to the hosting of the Beijing
Olympics as a method of ‘cleaning-up’ the city in the build-up to and during the Games.

Persecution of people who stand up for human rights
The Chinese authorities should ensure that human rights defenders are free to carry out their peaceful activities. This should include:
- ensuring that human rights defenders are not subjected to house arrest; are able to
communicate with foreign journalists without penalty or harassment; and are able to
highlight legitimate issues of concern without penalty or harassment;
- releasing human rights defenders who are currently detained as prisoners of conscience.

Freedom of expression
The Chinese authorities should end the unwarranted censorship of the Internet in China. This should include:
- Ensuring that no one is arrested or tried for legitimate use of the Internet;
- Ensuring that those detained or imprisoned for use of the Internet, including human
rights defenders and journalists are released.

Amnesty International is campaigning for the Beijing Olympics to leave a lasting legacy of improvements in human rights for China. More information about the campaign can be found at:

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