August 11, 2008

Beijing’s Olympics and Human Rights

There are a couple of reasons as to why I shall not be watching the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Human Rights

Since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, the human rights and China issue has divided many. While some have leapt to China’s defense citing exaggerated claims by an “unfair media” fact is, the sources documenting abuse are many, including the U.S. State Department's annual People's Republic of China human rights report and Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports, which consistently document the PRC's abuses in violation of internationally recognized norms.

Only last week we read about Annie Yang’s plight. Her story is one of many describing disturbing details suffered in labour camps that incidentally are located only miles from many Olympic venues. Annie was forced to sit straight for weeks on an uneven surface in a torture method referred to as “sitting on a high chair’.

“Every day, one was forced to sit for over 18 hours a day with a strict posture – both knees touching each other tightly, both legs touching each other tightly, both hands resting over the knees, the back must be kept straight, eyes must be open and no movement is allowed”. She said adding, “After a week or two, many peoples bottoms start to rot.”

This form of torture is used on many strong willed Falun Gong practitioners at the Beijing Municipal Woman’s Re-Education through Labour Training Camp.

The Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (CIPFG), an international advocacy group, has compiled a report, which lists labour camps kilometres from seven major Olympic sites in China – Beijing, Beijing Tuanhe, Qingdao, Shanghai, Tianjin and many more cities. The report titled “Torture Outside the Olympic Village: A Guide to China’s Labour Camps,” has phone numbers for the camps, and local “surveillance offices” and provides personal experiences from former captives. The report is essential reading for anyone concerned about human rights in China and especially journalists covering the Olympics.

A full report on Labour Camp locations can be found at:

Only last week and on the eve of the opening ceremony, President Bush chided the Chinese, and called for a more open society urging its leaders to grant greater freedom to the people just as sources from within informed Human Rights groups that the authorities continue to detain, harass, coerce, and monitor rights defenders and dissidents in different parts of the county. The Presidents sharp critique of the state of human rights in China most likely angered the country's communist leadership.

The White House has published a full transcript of his August 7th speech and that of the former President George H. W. Bush, dedicating the new embassy compound in Beijing. Overall, it was as expected - a carefully nuanced speech as the President steered between informed criticism and respect.

In its response, China stated that it is a government for the people, a government that puts its people first, and protects their basic rights and freedom. A worthy ideal, but one that needs to be put into practice before we can have any confidence in the Chinese authorities. To date at least, China has missed an opportunity to improve its world image. According to a US State Department report on China’s human rights situation:

“Citizens did not have the right to change their government, and many who openly expressed dissenting political views were harassed, detained, or imprisoned…Abuses included instances of extrajudicial killings; torture and mistreatment of prisoners, leading to numerous deaths in custody; coerced confessions; arbitrary arrest and detention; and incommunicado detention.”
The Australian noted last week:

“The Communist Party bosses see the games as a milestone marking China's emergence as a world power. It is perfectly natural for China to want to showcase its economic might as well as its sporting prowess, but the world should not pass up this opportunity to look realistically at where its most populous country is progressing. China is clearly uncomfortable about being subjected to such scrutiny. Its leadership is used to hiding behind an ideological facade. This cannot last forever. If the Olympics mark the start of China's sprint for global credibility, it has got off to a mixed start. China is not the Maoist dictatorship of the Cultural Revolution. Bureaucratic and economic interests jostle for influence. There has been a limited opening up of debate in academic circles and a strengthening of civil society. But by brutally suppressing dissent, clamping down on restive minorities in Tibet and elsewhere and restricting freedom of information, the regime has shown it has a long way to go. There is little doubt that an open challenge to the Communist Party's rule would lead to an immediate and brutal Tiananmen-style crackdown.” Read the rest here

Edward McMillan-Scott, a British Member of the European Parliament and one who describes China as a terror state draws an interesting parallel:

“If we had known what was already taking place in Germany's camps in 1936,” he says, "the Olympics would not have taken place in Berlin.”

Moreover, the other reason for not watching is rooted in ideological reflections; they are a Communist State, need I add more.

My reflections aside, I wish both the Australian and American contingents well in Beijing.

See also, Human Rights, China, the IOC and the 2008 Olympics


kimbatch said...

I don’t support a boycott, but the Games are a chance, while the world is watching, to press China for change.

Without change China will carry on executing more of its citizens than any other country in the world, it will continue censoring the media and the Internet and it will continue locking up and torturing those who try to stand up for their rights and the rights of others.

What happened to the promises China made in its bid for the Olympic Games? Who will hold them to account?

Liu Jingmin, vice-president of the Beijing Olympic Bid Committee said, in April 2001: “By allowing Beijing to host the Games you will help in the development of human rights.”

Isn’t political. To stand up for human rights is to stand up for the values enshrined in the Olympic Charter.

AI said...

Thank-you for the thoughtful comments Kimbatch, and wekcome to AI.

All the best with:

Steven said...

Beijing, please move on. The next guy in line is London. I hope London can respect the minority rights and grant full autonomy to Northern Ireland, the Falklands, Gibraltar, Wales and Scotland. Welcome to the land of football hooligans and street-peeing, drunken Brits!

And this is from USA, the country who committed mass murder of native indians and completely wiped out many tribes in their entirety.

Free Hawaii !
Free Texas !!
Free Guantanamo Bay prisoners!!!