Human rights abuses in China have not only continued but increased in order to prepare venues for the Beijing games: Rosa Davis
Tickets for the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008 went on sale this weekend. The games are being hosted by the capital city of a country which is prominent in world politics, trade and economics. A country with the largest population in the world. A country with many fine achievements in culture, literature and sports. A country with the worst record for human rights abuse.
The Olympic Games, as we know them today, were set up by Pierre de Coubertin in the late 19th century as a mechanism for improving relations between countries. The five intertwined rings of the Olympic symbol represent the unity of the five continents. The idea of unity and showcasing the solidarity of the world through sports is an underlying theme throughout all the events of the games.
The holding of the Olympics in Beijing has been a cause for concern for some time. A number of protest groups have highlighted the irony of holding such an event in this country. China is notorious for its propaganda and for prosecuting citizens who criticise the country. The controls over material deemed unsuitable regarding China have been strengthened, and the arrests of people distributing such materials have increased since the announcement of the venue for the games in 2008. This has made it harder to find out the nature and extent of the abuses that have occurred as a result of preparation for 2008.
The human rights abuses have not only continued but have increased in order to build the venues for the Olympics. In 2006 the Beijing municipal authority announced that certain groups of local people would be banished from the area where the games will be held. They include beggars, vagrants and those with mental illnesses. Furthermore, many citizens will be forced to either vacate their homes or remain in their houses for the duration of the Olympics. At least 300,000 residents have been moved to make way for the games, and those who complain face persecution, prison or even death.
Ye Guozhu owned two restaurants in Beijing, both of which were demolished in 2001, as was his home two years later. This was done in order to create space for Olympic facilities to be built. Mr Ye sought permission to demonstrate against such forcible evictions and the lack of compensation for them. He was arrested and sentenced to four years in prison, and his family have had no contact with him since. No appeal can be made on his behalf as there is no way to contact him to sign the papers necessary for this process. It is reported that the courts have been ordered not to hear cases seeking compensation for any such abuses.
As a member of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, China is "committed" to protect basic rights and freedoms but it remains to be seen whether this will be upheld on a national level. This includes doing such things as ceasing repression of activists, removing internet and press censorship, granting independence to lawyers, ending re-education-through-labour, complying with international conventions on human rights, and recognising independent workers unions. These reforms have been called for by human rights organisations and watchdogs for a number of years, and have yet to be implemented, despite such pressure.