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Background information: “Endless examples of China’s human rights violations have not only laid bare China’s promises but have also invalidated its guarantees made during China’s bid to host the Olympic Games”

  • Date:2007-12-14

December 14, 2007
Mainland Affairs Council

In order to win the right to host the 2008 Olympic Games, China made many promises—including the improvement of China’s human rights record, freedom of the press, and the protection of the environment—to the international community when it submitted its Olympic bid in 2001. What makes the public still vividly remember is the fact that Liu Qi, president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIII Olympiad and the then Beijing City Mayor, guaranteed in front of all the members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during a meeting held in Moscow that, "if Beijing wins its bid to host the Olympic Games, it will be conducive to China’s economic and social progress; at the same time, it will also make further progress on the promotion of human rights. Wang Wei, Secretary- General of Beijing 2008 Olympic Bid Committee, also made promises to accelerate the improvement of China’s human rights situation and indicated as well that, "We will grant full freedom of the press to the journalists coming to China; they will be able to visit Beijing and other Chinese cities and cover any news event before and during the Olympic Games. We will also allow demonstrations." However, the facts prove that six and a half years after it successfully won the Olympic bid, there has not only been no signs of any improvement in China's human rights record, but it can be even said that there is a serious retrogression in China’s human rights situation.

Beijing's 1.5 million residents were forced to relocate due to constructions for the Olympic Games

In August 2007, the Geneva-based human rights organization Center on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) indicated in a report that the Beijing government has implemented a large-scale urban reconstruction to welcome the Olympic Games. Residents are often forced to evacuate without receiving any notice or with a very meager amount of compensation. As of April 2007, various constructions for the Olympic Games have affected at least 1.25 million residents and have caused countless homes to be forcefully demolished. Before the start of the Olympic Games next year, it is also estimated that at least 250,000 more people will have to relocate. The COHRE report also indicated that approximately 33,000 people have been left homeless every year due to constructions for the Olympic Games and they have thus become poor. Those who were dissatisfied with the forced evictions and called for the protection of human rights have mostly been suppressed, persecuted, and even brought into custody.

Nevertheless, in facing the criticisms from various sectors of society, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu refuted by saying that these allegations "do not have any factual evidence" and even argued that "residents affected by the construction of facilities for the Olympic Games have been properly taken care of; none of them have been forced to relocate outside of Beijing." Beijing human rights activist Hu Jia's analysis indicates that Olympic host nations have always implemented relocations to give way to the construction of Olympic facilities, but Beijing has committed the most number of human rights violations, which are also considered the most inhumane. The very reason for this is that the Chinese government is neither being constrained nor monitored.

The Beijing authorities forcefully demolish Shangfang Village and drive away visitors

Shangfang Village, located in Fengtai District in Beijing, used to be the home of large batches of petitioners from all over China who went to Beijing to petition the Chinese authorities due to land expropriation, demolition and relocation, as well as land disputes in their provincial hometowns. They were viewed by the Chinese authorities as disharmonious and destabilizing elements. The Village was plain-looking and the petitioners shabbily-dressed, which created a strong contrast between one of China’s slogans for the games—“a new Beijing, a new Olympics”; under such circumstances it naturally became a target for the municipal government's plans for reconstruction. In August 2007, the Beijing authorities conducted another large-scale check on the Village and ordered all the petitioners to relocate. The government decreed that hostels and inns taking in any petitioner will be fined RMB 20,000. The media also took coordinated action by reporting how several of them were sent back to their hometowns to receive punishment or undergo “reeducation through labor,” clearly serving as a warning to others. In the end of September 2007, hundreds of Beijing police and officials forcefully demolished the Village and large groups of public security officials have continued to drive away petitioners who still refuse to leave or who just arrived there from all over China.

The Chinese government wantonly accuses people of "National Security" crimes

In November, the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) Chinese language webpage reported that the San Francisco-based Dui Hua Foundation quoted the Law Yearbook of China 2007, an official Chinese document, as saying that there were 604 people arrested in China in 2006 for endangering and threatening national security, and that 561 of these cases have entered the litigation process. Of all the cases, only a handful have been made public by the Chinese government or by international human rights organizations, and more than 90 percent of the cases are unknown to the various sectors of society. Kang Yuan, executive director of the said Foundation, indicated that the figures announced in the yearbook are the only official figures revealed concerning the political crimes handled by the Chinese judicial system. Based on these figures, the number of people arrested in 2006 for "threatening and endangering national security" has more than doubled over 2005. These developments show that the Chinese authorities have wantonly accused people of crimes against the "national security." Its motive is to quell any opposing opinions from coming out in the rapidly-transforming society of China, to ensure that the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games will not be disturbed.

China blacklists 11 categories of people from attending the Olympic Games

In November 2007, the China Aid Association (CAA), a Christian organization, revealed a confidential document released in April by China's Ministry of Public Security, namely, the “Notice on the Strict Implementation of a Background Check on Applicants for the Olympic Games and the Olympic Test Event.” The document requires a strict background check on personnel applying to participate in the Olympic Games, including members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), athletes, journalists, and sponsors, and clearly lists down the 43 types of persons grouped into 11 categories that are banned from participating in the Olympic Games. These 11 "blacklisted" categories include hostile elements, Falun Gong adherents and members of other cults and harmful religious organizations, religious extremists and infiltrators, ethnic secessionists, media employees who may harm the Olympic Games, illegal organizations that may pose actual threat to the Olympic Games, dangerous elements, people under investigation by the judicial agencies, criminals under surveillance, on probation, and under parole, terrorists, and members of illegal organizations.

The Olympic Games is a major international sports event that becomes the focus of the world's attention every four years. Every individual regardless of ethnic background, religious beliefs, and nationality, has the right to participate in such an event. Terrorism is plaguing the world today; under such circumstances, it is just natural to reinforce security measures during the Olympic Games. However, the legal system in China has not yet been perfect, and the various names of charges like hostile, opposing, dangerous, violent, illegal, secessionist, and threat, are defined in arbitrary manner, which not only seriously encroaches on basic human rights, but also clearly violates the core principles of "protection of human dignity" and "respect for universal ethics" that are stipulated under the Olympic Charter; this is especially so with regard to the restrictions imposed on religious sects and organizations.

China's declaration to respect press freedom is only to create a false impression

Due to international pressure, China has started to implement the “Regulations on Reporting Activities in China by Foreign Journalists During the Beijing Olympic Games and the Preparatory Period” since January 2007. The Regulations stipulate that foreign journalists stationed in China are allowed to freely cover news events across the country during the Olympic Games, and the scope of coverage is not limited to the Olympic Games, it is extended to activities in the areas of politics, technology, culture, and economy. However, the Beijing-based Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) revealed a survey report on August 1, 2007 indicating that 95 percent of the 163 foreign journalists surveyed believed that the coverage environment for news media in China has not reached the acceptable international standards, and that 67 percent of the respondents believed that the Chinese government has not fulfilled their promise to grant greater freedom to foreign journalists to cover news events in China. Around 40 percent of reporters indicated that since January 2007, they have encountered certain interferences and restrictions imposed by the Chinese government during the coverage process, which includes being trailed and monitored, threatened and harassed, and illegally detained; what's more, violent infringement upon the reporter and the information sources also happens. Some foreign journalists also believed that they have not only been forbidden by government authorities from covering sensitive issues such as public demonstrations, but have also encountered several obstacles imposed by administrative entities when they make in-depth coverage of sensitive issues such as those on ethnic minorities.

On the surface, China's formulation of the regulations on reporting activities of foreign media during the Olympic Games seems to abide by the promise China has made during its bid to host the Olympic Games. But there is no need to do such a thing in any country where its citizens enjoy press freedom. Moreover, based on the aforementioned survey results and the fact that Tibet and Xinjiang remain listed as restricted areas for travel, as well as the frequent occurrence of restrictions imposed on news coverage, the prohibitions against covering news events related to religious and social incidents and the frequent reports on Chinese suppression of press freedom, it can be seen that China does not have any intention to respect press freedom, and its declaration of so-called "full freedom of the press" is only aimed at creating a false impression. The "regulations" formulated by China are only expedient measures that serve to mitigate criticisms.

Constant criticisms from international organizations

Recently, China’s incessant human rights violations have clearly laid bare the promises China made during its bid to host the Olympic Games, and this has triggered serious concerns among the international community. For example, in January 2007, the Human Rights Watch released its “World Report 2006” indicating that since Chinese leaders Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao took office in 2003, the human rights situation and the freedom of the press in China have retrogressed. In March 2007, the U.S. State Department released its “2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” indicating that "certain human rights conditions in China are gradually deteriorating."

In June 2007, a total of nine international human rights organizations in the world, namely, Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International, the International Federation for Human Rights, the International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture, the International Society for Human Rights, Solidarity China, Human Rights In Action, the Committee for the Support of Tibetan People, and Together Against the Death Penalty, gathered in Paris to jointly launch a movement raising an eight-point demand to ask Beijing to obey, in the hope of improving the human rights situation in China.

On August 6, 2007, Reporters Without Borders held a press conference and staged a demonstration in front of the headquarters of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) to demand the release of about one hundred Chinese reporters and internet dissenters. On August 7, 42 Chinese intellectuals including Bao Tong, Liu Xiaobo, and Chen Ziming sent an open letter to Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao demanding the implementation of the promises China made during its bid to host the Olympic Games and the facilitation of human rights improvements in China, hoping that aside from having "the same world and the same dream" the Chinese nationals will also have "the same human rights." In the beginning of August, democratic activists including Wei Jingsheng and Wang Dan wrote to Dr. Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), calling for attention on the human rights situation in China. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also convened a press briefing in Beijing to condemn the Chinese government for having failed to keep its promises.

The Human rights situation in China is entirely in violation of the Olympic spirit

The Chinese authorities have racked their brain and spared no effort in organizing the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, hoping that through the holding of the Olympic Games, they will be able to promote China's economic, social, and cultural development, and shape a new image for its "rise" into a major power. However, behind the pageantry of the Olympics preparations, the human rights situation in China entirely runs counter to the sublime ideals advocated by the Olympic Games, namely, humanitarianism, freedom, equality, and harmony, forming a strong contrast that is extremely sarcastic.