Olympic Watch: human rights in China and the Beijing 2008 Olympics OLYMPIC WATCHOLYMPIC WATCH


Olympic Watch writes National Olympic Committees

Prague, December 10, 2006 - Olympic Watch, an organization campaigning for human rights improvements in China before the 2008 Olympic Games, has sent a letter to national Olympic committees around the world. Sent twenty months before the Games are to start and on the eve of the International Human Rights Day, the letter alerts the national committees about the ongoing human rights violations in China and reminds them of their obligations in defending Olympic ideals.

Contrasting the Chinese government’s record on universally defined human rights standards such as the death penalty, torture, freedom of expression and other issues, with the Olympic ideals of “dignity of the individual”, and “respect for fundamental universal ethical principles”, Olympic Watch calls on the national committees to respond to the fact that the International Olympic Committee “has apparently made little effort to actually hold [the Beijing Organizing Committee] accountable for the context in which the 2008 Olympic Games are to take place”.

The full text of the letter follows below.

Prague, 8 December 2006

Dear [President of National Olympic Committee],

Twenty months before the 2008 Olympic Games are to take place in Beijing, we are writing you on the eve of the International Human Rights Day to alert you of the ongoing human rights violations taking place in China and to invite you to discuss how your National Olympic Committee will respond to this situation.

The Olympic Charter and Code of Ethics identify great Olympic ideals and explicitly refer to the concept of human rights. They speak of “preservation of human dignity”, “harmonious development of man”, “respect for fundamental universal ethical principles” and “dignity of the individual”. Each host city and each host government is obliged to uphold these Olympic principles.

As you probably know, the situation in China can hardly be described along these lines. According to all independent monitors, the People’s Republic of China continues to be among the grossest human rights violators in the world. To name just the most obvious violations:
• Executions in China are frequent, while international standards for fair trials are not observed. Until recently, executions were carried out in sports stadiums. While this practice seems to have changed, the Chinese government continues to execute more people than the rest of the world combined. Verified numbers for 2005 speak of 3,400 death sentences and 1,770 executions, while according to some Chinese sources the numbers may actually be as high as 10,000.
• Torture in China is “widespread”, according to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, who had the opportunity to visit China in 2005 for the first time after years of obstruction from the government.
• The freedom of expression is violated. Despite promises of full press freedom by 2008, which the Beijing bidding committee made during the candidacy process, the Chinese government has in fact been tightening the control of the media and the internet in recent years. Dozens of journalists and internet activists are documented in prison.
• The government of the People’s Republic of China continues to deny talks about autonomy to the Tibetan people, as peacefully requested by the Tibetan government-in-exile and the Dalai Lama. The right to freedom of religion of Tibetan Buddhists, Uyghur Muslims, and Chinese Christians and Falun Gong practitioners is violated.
• The continuing militarization in China is a threat to peace and democratic processes in Taiwan and elsewhere in East and South-East Asia.
• Human rights violations have taken place even in direct relation to the organization of the Games. 300,000 Beijing residents have been evicted, typically without proper compensation, for the sake of Olympic re-development of the city. Ye Guozhu, one of the evictees, has been sentenced to four years in prison for lawfully applying to organize a peaceful rally of the evictees.

Olympic Watch and other human rights organizations have made good-faith efforts to engage in conversation with the IOC. Although President Jacques Rogge has made some encouraging statements on the IOC’s commitment to the promotion of human rights, the IOC so far has apparently made little effort to actually hold BOCOG, which is inextricably linked to the Chinese government, accountable for the context in which the 2008 Olympic Games are to take place.

We are therefore writing to ask you about your National Olympic Committee’s opinion on the situation and invite you to a conversation about how to achieve that the 2008 Olympic Games truly have a positive effect on the human rights situation of the Chinese people. As your Committee is among the institutions responsible for the promotion of the Olympic ideals, we would like to ask you whether you have already raised the issue with the IOC and/or with BOCOG officials.

We look forward to your reply and to the opportunity to assist you in your difficult task of protecting the Olympic ideals in this context.


Jan Ruml
Chairman, Olympic Watch

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