America has openly attacked China for failing to live up to its Olympic promise to improve human rights after eight US citizens were arrested and imprisoned without trial for their part in a pro-Tibet demonstration.
Telegraph UK: In an unusually candid statement issued on the eve of the Olympic closing ceremony the US Embassy in Beijing expressed mounting frustration with China's refusal to give ground on basic freedoms during the Games.
"We are disappointed that China has not used the occasion of the Olympics to demonstrate greater tolerance and openness," the statement said.
"We encourage the government of China to demonstrate respect for human rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of religion, of all people during the Olympic Games and beyond."
The statement appeared to be timed to inflict maximum embarrassment on the Chinese government which, despite the sporting success of the Games, has faced continued criticism of its human rights abuses.
A British woman, Amanda McKeown, 41, remains in jail on similar charges after she helped three other protesters unfurl a 'Free Tibet' banner outside the National Stadium last Thursday.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office also called on China to "respect its commitment to freedom of expression" but in a concession to the Chinese not given by the US, added that UK visitors in China should "respect local laws".
The bluntness of the US statement will inevitably take some of the political gloss off the Beijing Olympics which have been widely acknowledged to have been a commercial and sporting triumph, attracting record worldwide TV audiences.
Despites this success, the Chinese government has continued to suppress all forms of dissent, blocking all websites it deems seditious, even including Apple's iTunes music store on the blacklist after it offered a pro-Tibet charity album for download.
Even some Chinese people who applied to demonstrate in the official 'protest pens', which were set up at the behest of the International Olympic Committee, have been arrested.
There was particular outrage last week when two Chinese pensioners aged 77 and 79 were sentenced to one year 're-education through labour' for applying to protest about being evicted from their homes for an Olympic development.
However despite the criticism from the US embassy and the Foreign Office, the IOC has remained steadfastly loyal to their Chinese hosts.
In his official end-of-games briefing, Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, said he was "extremely pleased" about the organisation of the Games, although hinted at reservations about China's failure to deliver on basic human rights.
Mr Rogge admitted that the IOC had felt it was "unusual" that not a single demonstration had taken place in the protest pens, but added that ultimately the IOC was powerless to intervene against the Chinese state.
On the case of the two pensioners, Mr Rogge said: "We heard about these cases and we discussed them with the Chinese authorities and the reply we received was that this was an application of Chinese law. The IOC is not a sovereign organisation and we have to accept Chinese law."
Throughout the Games, the Chinese authorities have refused to engage in debate on the human rights issues.
On Sunday Chinese President, Hu Jintao officially declared the Beijing Games a "success", and praised the athletes and volunteers.
He added the event would "enhance mutual understanding and friendship between the Chinese people and the people of all other countries," the official Xinhua News Agency reported.