Activists press China to better human rights record as 2008 Olympics approach

Human rights advocacy groups from all over the world start to press the Chinese government to improve its record on human rights, reported LA Times. Activists say their bid to train a spotlight on human rights at the Beijing is based on a central premise: China as host should uphold the same standards and founding principles as the Games themselves. These, they say, include the preservation of human dignity and the harmonious development of man as outlined in the Olympic Charter and Code of Ethics. Human rights research groups close to the Chinese government say that sports should be kept away from politics and this kind of pressue won’t encourage any change.


Activists say their bid to train a spotlight on human rights at the Beijing Olympics is based on a central premise: China as host should uphold the same standards and founding principles as the Games themselves. These, they say, include the preservation of human dignity and the harmonious development of man as outlined in the Olympic Charter and Code of Ethics. In the global village, even sports events should be held to a higher moral standard, they argue.

At the very least, they say, China should be prodded to fully abide by anti-torture conventions, expand personal freedoms, allow independent labor unions and make other significant improvements in the run-up to the opening ceremony.

“We’re not asking them to change their society,” said Vincent Brossel, an official with Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based press and free-speech group. “That would be absurd. What we are calling for is freer information and an end to torture and the bad treatment of prisoners. That’s reasonable for an Olympics host. Nor are we saying do it in a week. They’ve got four years.”

Chinese government and Olympics officials didn’t respond to requests for comment, but Beijing has long argued that elevating its 1.3 billion people out of poverty is the most fundamental human right.

“The Olympic Games are about sports, which should be kept separate from politics,” said Wang Zhenmin, co-director of Qinghua University’s Constitution and Human Rights Center in Beijing. “The government is already paying more attention to these issues. This sort of outside pressure won’t encourage change.”
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“This is exactly what we heard at that point from our Communist leaders, that the West is interfering in domestic affairs and that they do a lot of things for their people the West doesn’t do,” said Kutilek from Olympic Watch. “We haven’t seen any credible human rights improvement in the three years since they won the Games. We should avoid the Olympics becoming a propaganda tool for the government.”

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