Wrath of Rights Groups Wallops China

Juliette Terzieff reports in this week’s Rights & Wrongs:

OLYMPIC COUNTDOWN BRINGS CHINA CRITICISM — Condemnation of China’s human rights record rained down from all sides this week as Chinese authorities marked the one year countdown to the beginning of the 2008 Beijing Games with a lavish celebration.

Amnesty International released a scathing report on the status of human rights in China Aug. 7, charging China has broken promises it made when bidding to host the games by increasing abuse and surveillance of political dissidents, harassing and detaining local and foreign journalists and closing publications focused on social development.

With one year to go, time is “running out for the Chinese government to fulfill its promises of promoting human rights as part of the Olympics legacy. Unless the Chinese authorities take urgent measures to stop human rights violations over the coming year, they risk tarnishing the image of China and the legacy of the Beijing Olympics,” Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Kahn said at the report’s launch.

The Amnesty International report was released the same day as Chinese authorities detained six Tibetan rights activists for unfurling a banner that read “One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008” on the Great Wall, and followed on the heels of a report by Human Rights Watch, which also blasted China’s failure to honor its pledges. (Related WPR article)

The Committee to Protect Journalists weighed in on the issue, calling for the release of 29 Chinese journalists currently in detention and an easing of restrictions on reporters, which Beijing previously promised. CPJ representatives traveled to Beijing to meet with International Olympic Committee members and launched the group’s latest report on the media in China.

Reporters Without Borders staged events in several countries Aug. 7-8 to mark the one-year countdown, denouncing the situation amid calls for the release of dozens of journalists, cyber-dissidents and free speech activists, and an end to censorship of the news media and Internet.

In an Aug. 9 editorial, meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times lashed out at Beijing and bluntly urged campaigners to continue highlighting the country’s human rights record.

“It is consumers, the international media and cultural colossi such as Steven Spielberg — not preachy foreign governments — who can best further reform in China by speaking out before the Olympic torch arrives. We wish China peace, prosperity and successful Games — but not a system that jails journalists, silences dissidents and ignores the brutalization of the people who make the products the world enjoys,” the paper wrote.

As the Olympics get closer, it is seem certain that criticism of China’s human rights record will continue to get louder, and also increasingly unlikely that Beijing officials will respond to the criticism with significant policy changes.

Read all of this week’s Rights & Wrongs. To browse past editions, click here.

More World Politics Review