Fri, Sep 22, 2006 - Page 5 News List

AI calls on IOC to press rights issues

ABUSE The group said across-the-board reforms are needed. It asked the Olympic movement to push for political prisoners to be freed and other steps


China has failed to live up to the promises its leaders made to improve human rights for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Amnesty International (AI) said in a report that calls on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to ensure China's compliance.

The report, released yesterday, catalogs a broad range of persisting human rights abuses, from the widespread use of the death penalty and the extraction of organs from executed prisoners for transplants, to the persecution of civil-rights activists and new methods to rein in the media and censor the Internet.

The report also said that Beijing is forcing people from their homes to make way for Olympic-related construction projects.

"Serious human rights violations continue to be reported across the country, fueling instability and discontent," the report said. "Grassroots human rights activists continue to be detained and imprisoned, and official controls over the media and the Internet are growing tighter."

Amnesty called on the Chinese government to enact reforms to correct abuses across the board. It also urged the IOC and the Olympic movement "to put pressure on Chinese authorities" to release political prisoners, take steps toward ending the death penalty and repeal restrictions on the free flow of information.

China's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

However, in a sign of official disapproval, transmissions of CNN into China were blocked a few seconds after it began showing an interview yesterday with the report's Hong Kong-based author, Mark Allison. The broadcasts resumed after a couple of minutes once the interview with Allison had ended.

China allows transmissions of foreign channels such as CNN and BBC World to hotels and apartment compounds for foreigners, although they remain off limits for ordinary Chinese households.

The IOC said that with nearly two years to go, it was too early to take China to task and that the Olympic governing body was not a political pressure group.

"It's premature to say that China has failed to live up to its pledges to hold a successful Games," spokeswoman Giselle Davies said. "We don't work by putting pressure. That's not our methodology."

Though many of the ills cited by the group have been endemic for years in China, the report underscores an uncomfortable contradiction: While the world was promised that a Beijing Games would bolster respect for human rights, the leadership appears to be digging in its heels.

Over the past three years, Chinese leaders have mounted the most sustained clampdown on dissent since 1989. Aside from political and religious dissidents, the government has moved to intimidate new groups, such as activist lawyers and academics, while aggressively scouring the Internet for political essayists and firing and detaining reporters and editors.

In bidding for the Games back in 2001, Beijing promised IOC members that the Olympics would lead to an improved climate for human rights and media freedoms.

"By allowing Beijing to host the Games you will help the development of human rights," Amnesty International quoted Liu Jingmin (劉敬民), a vice president of the Beijing bid committee and now a senior official in charge of preparations for the Games, as saying in 2001.

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