China has been slammed for its human rights record in the latest Amnesty International report. It also declared the 2008 Olympics in Beijing a disaster for human rights in the country.
The report, “State of the World’s Human Rights”, was launched May 28 by Amnesty’s Secretary General Irene Khan. According to Khan, an explosive human rights crisis is underlying the global economic downturn.
“The world needs a new global deal on human rights—not paper promise, but commitment, and concrete action from governments to defuse the human rights time bomb,” said Ms. Khan in a press release. “World leaders must invest in human rights as purposefully as they are investing in the economy.”
While few countries were immune to Ms. Khan’s criticisms on human rights, China was particularly identified as a focus of Amnesty’s new global campaign “Demand Dignity” and noted as proof that “open markets have not lead to open societies”.
Rather than human rights improving, as was touted by Chinese authorities and members of the International Olympic Committee, the report identifies a litany of repressive initiatives introduced as a result of the Olympics.
“The Olympic Games in Beijing brought heightened repression throughout the country as authorities tightened control over human rights defenders, religious practitioners, ethnic minorities, lawyers, and journalists,” the report said.
Falun Gong practitioners were, “among those most harshly persecuted,” the report said. It noted that, “In the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, thousands were reported to have been arrested, with hundreds imprisoned or assigned to Re-education through Labour camps and other forms of administrative detention where they were at risk of torture and other ill-treatment sometimes leading to death.”
The report acknowledges the hundreds of Tibetans who remain incarcerated due to protests before the Olympics, and notes the series of “violent incidences” in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region before and during the Olympics that became the reason to arrest over 1,300 local Uighur Muslim people on religious extremism or state security charges. Around 1,150 Uighurs have since been charged and remain in custody.
Contrary to promises made by Chinese authorities that journalists would have unrestricted ability to report in China in the lead up and during the games, the government maintained strict control of freedom of expression. And while some Internet sites were unblocked during the games many more remained blocked.
“Approximately 30 journalists and 50 other individuals remained in prison for posting their views on the Internet,” the report said.
Similarly Chinese authorities made a show of protest zones which were established two weeks prior to the Olympics.
Lawyers who took on sensitive cases were likely to lose their jobs or have their licenses suspended. Some lawyers were told to not take on certain types of cases, such as Falun Gong and Tibetans.
Family members of human rights activists, including children, were also increasingly targeted by the authorities, including being subjected to long-term house arrest and harassment by security forces.