Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Amnesty in China Olympics warning

BBC: China risks spoiling the legacy of next year's Beijing Olympics unless it takes urgent measures to stop human rights abuses, Amnesty International has said.

In a report, the group accused China's authorities of detaining activists and journalists without trial in a "clean up" of the capital before the games.

Amnesty urged the country to halt those practices and to be more open about the number of people it executes.

Organisers have repeatedly expressed a desire to keep the games non-political.

Speaking before the Amnesty report had been issued, Jiang Xiaoyu of the Beijing organising committee said: "We welcome even more constructive criticism on faults and problems."

But he said politicising the event did not "accord with the Olympic spirit".

Positive steps

Amnesty's report said: "Official statements suggest that the Olympics are being used to justify such repression in the name of 'harmony' or 'social stability' rather than acting as a catalyst for reform."

The organisation said China had taken some positive steps in recent months by reforming the death penalty and relaxing restrictions on foreign journalists.

But Irene Khan, the organisation's secretary general, said they had also "tightened up the ability of Chinese journalists to work".

She added: "We've also seen increasing arrests of human rights activists, an increasing use of 're-education' through forced labour, and what they call enforced drug rehabilitation."

She said these concerns were still overshadowing preparations for the Olympics.

"This is a moment to be proud of the Olympic Games," she said.

"But if that pride is then stained with human rights violations, that's bad for China, it's bad for the Olympic Games and it's bad for the international community."

The Amnesty report follows a visit to Beijing by the Paris-based organisation Reporters Without Borders, which called for the release of more than 80 jailed journalists and dissidents in China.
OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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