Thursday, April 26, 2007

China human rights abuse rife amid Olympics preparation: Amnesty

Stay tune for a report card from Amnesty International highlighting China's broken promises before the Games.

PM Reporter: Stephen McDonell - Thursday, 26 April , 2007 18:30:00

MARK COLVIN: Amnesty International has accused China of abusing human rights as it gets ready for the Olympic Games.

In a damning report on China's Olympic preparations, the human rights organisation says China's been rounding up people who would threaten the stability of Beijing during the Games, and detaining them without trial.

Amnesty has identified compulsory drug rehabilitation, the increased repression of Chinese journalists and the continued use of so-called "re-education through labour" as part of Beijing's Olympic preparation.

The report looks certain to embarrass the International Olympic Committee.

China Correspondent Stephen McDonell reports.

STEPHEN MCDONELL: For Beijing to secure the Olympics, China promised unprecedented freedom and openness would accompany the Games.

And indeed there have been some significant changes.

A new law has been passed to give the Supreme Court the last say in all death penalty cases. Amnesty International welcomed this, because it took the power to execute away from corrupt local courts.

Then there are the new rules covering the behaviour of foreign journalists. Correspondents are now allowed officially to interview just about anybody as long as that person agrees to be interviewed. And we no longer have to ask permission from regional branches of the Foreign Ministry to travel throughout China.

But, according to Amnesty International, that's pretty much where China's newfound freedom stops.

In a report which is due to be released next week, the international human rights group says the Olympic Games are actually responsible for a deterioration in China's human rights record.

That's because the Government supposedly has "an overriding pre-occupation with stability" and the need for "a good social environment" during the Olympic Games.

With that in mind, it's trying to clear the streets of anyone who might upset Olympic stability.

The report quotes Fu Zhenghua, Deputy Director of the Beijing Public Security Bureau, as saying: "We do not rule out the possibility of compelling all drug users in the capital to give up their addictions before the Olympics."

Amnesty's analysis of Beijing's Olympic preparation is one of a police state at its worst.

"Amnesty International continues to receive regular reports of individuals being assigned to 'Re-education through Labour' and other forms of administrative detention imposed without charge, trial or judicial review. The organisation fears that these abusive systems are being used to detain petty criminals, vagrants, drug addicts and others to 'clean up' Beijing ahead of the Olympics."

Amnesty acknowledges that there've been examples of growing tolerance towards some individual activists.

But Amnesty says that any examples of growing tolerance are outweighed by the continuing harassment of others who try to report or campaign more widely on human rights violations.

It mentions Ye Guozhu, who's serving a four-year prison sentence after organising a demonstration against forced home evictions in Beijing. His torture in detention, including beating with electric shock batons, is said to have caused major health problems. Amnesty is calling for his "immediate and unconditional release".

Of course, local journalists are prevented from reporting any of this. The freedom enjoyed by foreign correspondents here is not only denied to Chinese journalists, but new regulations have been introduced to crack down on their reporting.

Local journalists now have to get permission before reporting on "sensitive" historical events, and are banned from reporting news on 20 specific issues. They include judicial corruption and campaigns to promote human rights.

Amnesty has sent copies of its report to both the Chinese Government and also the International Olympic Committee, who are yet to respond.

According to Amnesty's Asia Pacific Director, Catherine Baber:

"The IOC cannot want an Olympics that is tainted with human rights abuses, whether families forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for sports arenas, or growing numbers of peaceful activists held under 'house arrest' to stop them drawing attention to human rights issues."

The IOC will have an interesting time spinning itself out of this one.

This is Stephen McDonell in Beijing for PM.
OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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