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China: Leaders Should Not Attend Olympics Without Rights Improvements Leverage Beijing’s Desire for Recognition into Durable Rights Change

April 11, 2008

Human Rights Watch

(Washington, DC, April 9, 2008) – World leaders should defer accepting
invitations to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing until the
Chinese government makes key human rights improvements, Human Rights
Watch said in an open letter today
( In order to
secure leaders’ participation, the Chinese government should allow an
independent international investigation into events in Tibetan areas
since March 10, lift restrictions on the press nationwide, stop jailing
dissidents, and increase pressure on Sudan.

To win its bid to host the 2008 Games, which open on August 8, the
Chinese government made both broad commitments to improving its human
rights record, and specific pledges to improve media access in advance
of the Games. The participation by heads of state and government at the
opening or closing ceremonies, which is crucially important to the
Chinese government, remains a key point of leverage to press for
positive changes in the coming months.

“If Beijing doesn’t want to politicize the Games, why were an
unprecedented 100 leaders invited to attend?” said Sophie Richardson,
Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Attendance has been
turned into endorsement, and endorsement without significant progress in
exchange is wrong.”

Since last December, Human Rights Watch has advised senior officials of
the US and other governments that leaders should consider conditioning
attendance at the opening ceremony on durable human rights improvements.
(To read Human Rights Watch’s letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice, please visit:

Over the past two decades, the Chinese government has chronically
restricted basic freedoms, including those of association, expression,
and religious practice. Although Human Rights Watch recognizes some
advances made during this period, the past three years have seen a
steady deterioration of human rights: arrests of prominent civil rights
activists, tightening restrictions on nongovernmental organizations,
increasing internet censorship, and hardening policies towards ethics
minorities, in particular in Tibet and Xinjiang.

Over the past year, Human Rights Watch has documented human rights
abuses specifically as a result of Beijing’s hosting the Games,
including restrictions on media freedom, allowing abuses of migrant
construction workers laboring on Beijing’s new sports venues, subjecting
those who criticize the Games to house arrest and prison on state
subversion charges, and conducting sweeps to remove the poorest and most
vulnerable groups from Beijing, including rural petitioners, among
others. Since mid-March, the Chinese government has responded
disproportionately to protests in Tibetan areas.

The Chinese government’s disregard for human rights can also be seen in
some aspects of its foreign policy. For example, although the Chinese
government used its influence to press the Sudanese government to agree
to a United Nations African Union peacekeeping force (UNAMID) in Darfur,
it should press Sudan to allow full deployment of this force, end
attacks on civilians in Darfur, and comply with its obligations under
Security Council resolutions and international law.

“World leaders can no longer ignore the obvious: that the Chinese
government, which craves international recognition, is not a medalist
when it comes to fulfilling human rights commitments,” said Richardson.
“Now is the moment to leverage that desire for recognition into real
change on human rights.”

Human Rights Watch takes no position on a boycott of the Games, but
believes that the Olympics are a unique and appropriate moment for world
attention to focus on China’s human rights record, and an important
opportunity for China’s government to make demonstrable improvements. In
its letter, Human Rights Watch urged leaders to condition their
attendance on the Chinese government doing the following:

· Permitting an independent international investigation, ideally led by
the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, into the events
in Tibetan areas since March 10. The investigation should focus on
issues such as access to prisoners, excessive uses of force,
extrajudicial executions, torture in custody, arbitrary detentions, the
failure to distinguish between protesting, which is permitted under
Chinese law, and rioting, and the violation of freedoms of speech
assembly, association, and religion. The findings of this investigation
must be made public prior to the opening of the Games.

· Reopening Tibetan areas to the international media as part of its
commitment to media freedom in the run-up to the Olympics, making those
freedoms permanent, and extending them to Chinese journalists. The
recent government-controlled tours by members of the foreign media
should not be considered evidence of real media freedom. Indeed,
participants on that tour commented that their movements were strictly
monitored and their reporting freedom was limited by their government

· Ceasing the practice of silencing peaceful government critics or
protestors through extrajudicial measures such as house arrest or actual
prosecution on grounds of subverting the state, a charge that carries a
five-year sentence. The activists Hu Jia and Yang Chunlin were recently
sentenced on these charges to three-and-a half and five years,
respectively, for their public support of human rights and criticism of
the government.

· Publicly calling on the Sudanese government to immediately cease
attacks on civilians in West Darfur by Sudanese Armed Forces and allied
militia, and to actively facilitate the speedy and unhindered deployment
of UNAMID at all levels. If the government of Sudan fails to comply,
China should then support the imposition of targeted sanctions on senior
government officials by the UN Security Council.

“Leaders need to decide whether now is the moment to say they will stand
arm-in-arm with the Chinese leadership at its ‘coming out’ party,” said
Richardson. “The onus will be on those who plan to attend to explain why
they think it is appropriate to do so.”

To read the open letter from Human Rights Watch to heads of government
and state, please visit:

For more of Human Rights Watch’s work on the human rights situation in
China ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games, please visit:

For more information, please contact:

In Washington, DC, Sophie Richardson (English, Mandarin):
+1-202-612-4341; or +1-917-721-7473 (mobile)
In Hong Kong, Nicholas Bequelin (English, French, Mandarin):
+852-8198-1040 (mobile)
In New York, Minky Worden (English, Cantonese): +1-212-216-1250; or
+1-917-497-0540 (mobile)
In London, Tom Porteous (English): +44-20-7713-2766; or +44-79-8398-4982
In Paris, Jean-Marie Fardeau (English, French, Portuguese):
+33-1-41-92-09-92; or +33-6-86-48-29-91 (mobile)
In Berlin, Marianne Heuwagen (English, German): +49-30 2593060, ext. 12;
or +49-173-354-8202 (mobile)
In Geneva, Juliette de Rivero (English, French, Spanish):
+41-79-640-1649 (mobile)
In Tokyo, Kanae Doi (English, Japanese): +81-90-2301-4372 (mobile)
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
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