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NGOs back MEPs 'serious concern' over China's human rights record in run-up to next year's Olympic Games
Office of Istvan Szent-Ivanyi MEP (18.12.2007) / HRWF Int’l (19.12.2007) – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org – Website: http://www.hrwf.net - “Since July 2001 when China was awarded the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, there has not been any progress in its human rights record and the International Olympic Committee should now take a clear position in this regard,” said 12 European NGOs and several Sakharov Prize laureates who gathered today at the European Parliament in Brussels for a hearing on the deteriorating human rights situation in China in the run up to next August's opening ceremony.
In an unprecedented move, today's conference - which was organised by Brussels-based NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers and the political group Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe - brought together twelve European NGOs and several Sakharov Prize laureates including: Mr Wei Jingsheng (1996), the only Chinese recipient of the award so far, Dom Zacharias Kamwenho (2001) and Mr Olivier Basille, the Director of the Belgian branch of Reporters Without Borders (2005). A written statement was also read out on behalf of Mr Aliaksandr Milinkevich, the 2006 Sakharov Prize winner, who could not attend today's event. In their testimonies, all Sakharov laureates expressed solidarity with the Chinese human rights defenders whose freedom is continually repressed by authorities increasingly threatened by the people's overwhelming support for democracy and the rule of law.
The conference came just days after the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the EU-China human rights dialogue which expressed regret over the Council and Commission's failure to take opportunity of the recent EU-China Summit (November 28) and approaching Olympic Games to raise their numerous human rights concerns 'in a firm manner' with the authorities. The resolution, which was passed unanimously by the assembly, also called upon the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to publish its own assessment of China's compliance with the undertakings it made in 2001 to improve its human rights record and to insist that the European Union 'take note' of such an assessment.
In his opening remarks István Szent-Iványi, MEP (ALDE, Hungary) said: "The Olympic Games have always been more than a simple sports event. The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, still have the potential to induce real progress in the human rights situation in China. But this requires a stronger and more united effort on behalf of the international community to call on China to respect its commitments."
Speaking at one of the seminar's sessions, Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers International said: “Today four Sakharov Prize laureates and a dozen European human rights watchdogs have come together to assess the human rights record of China and resolutely decided that there has been no progress in human rights in China since 2001 and, in some areas, there has even been regression."
In his closing remarks Edward McMillan-Scott, Vice-President of the EP (EPP-ED, UK) said: "As we move into the Olympic year, China must recognise that the European Parliament not only unanimously expresses 'serious concern' over human rights in general, but also asked the IOC to make its own assessment of China's compliance with its 2001 promises for reform. Now a week later, a network of human rights NGOs has reinforced this message. As I insisted when I launched the campaign for a debate about an EU boycott earlier this year, the conclusion is that the 2008 Games, and all those thereafter, should move to Athens without delay."
At the end of the seminar, participating MEPs and NGOs were invited to sign a declaration which criticised the lack of progress made by China in the following areas: non-ratification of the ICCPR; the death penalty; freedom of speech and freedom of expression on the internet; international labour law; freedom of religion; persecution of Falun Gong practitioners, human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, petitioners, civil society activists, ethnic groups such as the Uyghurs; and Tibet issues.