For Immediate Release
IOC denies risk of carrying Torch through Tibet
(Montreal, Friday, 4 April 2008) – In advance of its meetings next week in Beijing, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has replied to a letter from the International Tibet Support Network that expressed concern about the passage of the Beijing Olympic torch through Tibet. The IOC's reply dismisses the ITSN's appeal to withdraw the torch from Tibet, using language which demonstrates a profound failure to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation there. The 153 member organizations of the International Tibet Support Network are opposed to the torch passing through Tibet on the grounds that it is likely to be accompanied by a further crackdown on Tibetan protests, leading to more arrests, torture and possible loss of life.
The IOC's reply, which was received by ITSN on 1 April, states: "The Olympic Torch is a symbol which inspires people from all over the world to overcome their differences and come together in mutual understanding in anticipation of the Games which it heralds. The IOC's expectation is that the 2008 torch relay will go ahead as planned."
Alison Reynolds of the International Tibet Support Network responded, "China's brutal crackdown in Tibet and its vicious attacks on the Dalai Lama over the last four weeks are the antithesis of 'overcoming differences' and 'coming together in mutual understanding.' By failing to remove the torch from Tibet, the IOC is endorsing China's crackdown."
The letter - which is in reply to a letter from ITSN to President Jacques Rogge on March 15 - goes on to reiterate the IOC's refusal to judge China's Olympics on its human rights record, which is widely agreed to have deteriorated in recent months. Despite Rogge's promise to BBC Hard Talk in 2002, that “in the field of human rights..... we will act,” the IOC's letter disclaims any responsibility in the human rights arena, saying, "The success or failure of the [Beijing] Organizing Committee will be measured by its ability to organize and host operationally successful Games which allow the world's best athletes to compete at the top of their sport. If the benefits in Beijing have an effect beyond sport arenas, then everyone will win."
"The IOC has shown that it will be the first to claim credit in the remote chance that there should be any positive social outcomes of the Beijing Olympics, but will be the last to admit that it holds any responsibility for taking action, as the Olympics are being used by the Chinese government as an excuse for more repressive policies," said Ms Reynolds.
On 3 April, ITSN received a reply from Coca Cola, one of the Olympic Torch sponsors, to which it had also written to request support for withdrawing the torch from Tibet. Reiterating its commitment to the torch relay, Coca Cola said "we believe that dropping out of the torch relay or using the event to put political pressure on China would erode the ability of the Olympic Games to make a contribution to lasting change in China and its relationship with the rest of the world."
"The IOC and sponsors have failed to apply any political pressure on China over the last seven years, claiming that the Games themselves would bring about improvements," said Alison Reynolds. "We are now a little over 4 months away from the Games, with abundant evidence that the situation has deteriorated. If ever there was a time for political pressure on China, it is surely now."
The IOC's plans to carry the Olympic Torch through Tibet are of grave concern to ITSN's member organizations. Tibetans and Tibet support groups will hold mass protests in the coming days when the Beijing torch reaches London, Paris and San Francisco.
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For more information:
Dermod Travis, 514.487.0665
Alison Reynolds (UK) + 44 7711 843884
Freya Putt (N America) + 1 646 724 0746
Notes to Editors:
Note 1. The International Tibet Support Network is a global coalition of Tibet related non-governmental organizations, which works to maximise the effectiveness of the worldwide Tibet movement. ITSN Member organizations hold varied positions on Tibet's future political status, but all regard Tibet as an occupied country and are dedicated to ending human rights violations in Tibet, and to working actively to restore the Tibetan people's right under international law to determine their own political, economic, social, religious, and cultural status. See www.tibetnetwork.org for more information.
Note 2. On 3 April, China sentenced dissident Hu Jia, who has spoken out about Tibet and other issues, to three and a half years in prison, in what is clearly a move by the Chinese authorities to silence dissenting voices because of the Olympic Games. On 31 March, Amnesty International issued a report that detailed a range of issues on which China's human rights record had deteriorated and warned that a crackdown on activists was threatening Beijing's Olympics legacy.
Note 3. For more information about activities linked to the Beijing Olympic torch, please go to the following websites and contact the local organisations concerned:
Note 4. The full text of the IOC's letter to the International Tibet Support Network appears below. ITSN's letter to Jacques Rogge, Coca Cola, and Coca Cola's reply are available on request.
Lausanne, 28 March 2008
RE: 15th March Letter addressed to the President Rogge
Dear Mrs. Reynolds,
Thank you for your letter of 15 March 2008. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) shares the world's desire for the Chinese government to bring about a peaceful resolution in Tibet as quickly as possible.
According to the Olympic Values as upheld by the Olympic Movement, the IOC's goal is to make a contribution to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport. These values demand mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play for everyone without discrimination.
The visibility and symbolism of the Olympic Games shines a spotlight on any host country's activities and draws attention to non-sports-related issues. Awarding the Olympic Games to China has, it can be argued, elevated international dialogue on China's involvement in Tibet. This dialogue takes place, as it should, amongst government, politicians, influential individuals and expert organisations. As a sport organisation, the IOC is not in a position to question sovereign powers or laws of any country's government. Please find a statement of the IOC President on our role, published in the context of the recent events, on our website:
Consistent with any Olympic bid process, the Beijing 2008 bid process covered obligations that specifically concern the organisation and management of successful Games. Those obligations did not cover commitments on broader national social or political issues. The success or failure of the Organising Committee will be measured by its ability to organise and host operationally successful Games whichallow the world's best athletes to compete at the top of their sport.If the benefits in Beijing have an effect beyond sport arenas, then everyone will win.
In regards to the Olympic Torch Relay, which is led by the Organising Committee, we feel that this is an event where the Olympic values are powerfully brought to life. The Olympic Torch is a symbol which inspires people from all over the world to overcome their differences and come together in mutual understanding in anticipation of the Games which it heralds. The IOC's expectation is that the 2008 torch relay will go ahead as planned.
We remain committed to bringing the Olympic Movement to China for the first time in its history because we believe that the Olympic Games can show by example the benefits of bringing together people from all races and religions to practice sport in a spirit of friendship and fair play.
We will continue doing all we can to honestly and effectively manage the expectations of the many different stakeholders that we serve.
Chirstophe DE KEPPER
Chief of Staff