You can write to the new president of the IOC, Jacques Rogge, and urge him to put in place basic human rights safeguards in relation to the Games. You can also join HRW's campaign to lobby the Coca-Cola Company, one of the Olympics' largest U.S. corporate sponsors, to use its influence with the Chinese authorities and the IOC.
Background for action:
While visiting Beijing last August to discuss preparations for the 2008 Olympics, Mr. Rogge claimed the Games would "have a big impact on China's social environment - including human rights," without spelling out how.
Indeed, on February 4, 2001, when the IOC met in Salt Lake City, it praised Beijing's preparations for the Games, saying they were "very careful and efficient." It made no suggestions for how rights concerns, including forced resettlement to make way for Olympic sites, might be addressed. Construction of those sites is due to begin next year.
But if the IOC is to live up to its rhetoric and high ideals, it should reconsider this hands-off approach.
Just prior to the IOC's decision to award China the Games, Wang Wei, secretary-general of the official Beijing bid committee, said, "We will give the media complete freedom to report when they come to China...We are confident that the Games coming to China not only promotes our economy but also enhances all social conditions, including education, health and human rights." China must be held to these promises.
Here's what you can do:
1) Call for the release of Shan Chengfeng, imprisoned for circulating a petition urging the IOC to intervene on behalf of political prisoners:
In January 2001, prior to a visit to Beijing by an IOC assessment team, Shan Chengfeng, the wife of a prominent pro-democracy activist (Wu Yilong) imprisoned on charges of subversion, circulated a petition asking for the IOC's help in securing her husband's release and the release of other political prisoners. Shan herself was detained and sentenced to a two year term in a labor camp for "disturbing the social order."
Write to Jacques Rogge, IOC president, urging him to press Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Shan Chengfeng; to agree that there will be no further detentions or arrests of peaceful protestors before, during or following the Games; and to fully comply with China's promise to allow free and unrestricted access to China by the international media. (SAMPLE LETTER, BELOW).
2) Urge the creation of an IOC human rights monitoring committee:
Human Rights Watch has urged the IOC to establish a monitoring committee that includes at least one independent human rights expert. Ask Rogge to set up such a committee to begin working now to ensure that that migrants workers and other residents in areas where Olympic facilities are being built are treated in accordance with international human rights standards, and that China complies with its commitments on media access. An IOC monitoring committee should also make sure that there will be no discrimination against journalists based on their political or religious views of country of origin.
3) Call on The Coca-Cola Company to help promote human rights in China:
Contact the Chief Executive Officer of The Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, Georgia to ask for his help in pressing China for the release of Shan Chengfeng and in lobbying the IOC to put in place human rights safeguards. A roundup of dissidents or coordinated crackdown on protests leading up to or during the Games would clearly be bad for the positive image the Olympic sponsors hope to promote. (SAMPLE LETTER, BELOW.)
Coca-Cola is the Olympic movement's longest continuous corporate sponsor, beginning in 1928 and pledging its support through 2008, according to Coca-Cola's Olympics web page (www2.coca-cola.com/citizenship/Olympics.html). Coca-Cola spent about $300 million on the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia including the price of sponsorship and related activities in the years leading up to the event. Coca-Cola is likely to spend at least as much between now and 2008 in order to boost its image and sales in China.
4) Send copies of your letters to your local newspaper, and ask other community groups or school groups to send their own letters to the IOC and to Coca-Cola.
SAMPLE LETTER TO THE IOC:
International Olympic Committee
Chateau De Vidy
Case Postale 356
1007 Lausanne, Switzerland
Dear Mr. Rogge,
When you were elected president of the International Olympic Committee you said, "The Olympics must have high-quality standards, including human rights." I strongly agree with your statement.
As Beijing prepares to host the Olympic Games in 2008 I urge you to take effective action to ensure to protect and promote human rights in China. It is unlikely that the Games themselves will lead to human rights improvements, but the increased international attention to the Chinese government's behavior can be a positive influence.
I urge you to call on the Chinese authorities to immediately release Shan Chengfeng, who is now serving a two-year sentence in a Chinese labor camp for doing nothing more than circulating a petition last January asking the IOC to help secure the release of her husband and other political prisoners. Her continued detention for "disturbing social order" violates China's international human rights commitments. It is also a very disturbing precedent for what may happen to other dissidents who dare to raise their voices publicly prior to or during the Games. For this reason, the IOC should intervene on her behalf.
Secondly, I urge you to reconsider the IOC's refusal to establish a human rights monitoring committee. Such a committee could seek safeguards against arbitrary arrests of peaceful protestors, and make sure China honors its pledge to allow all foreign journalists "complete freedom" to report when they go to China to cover the Games. It could also monitor the treatment of Beijing residents and migrants affected by the building of Olympic facilities to be sure they are treated fairly.
Thank you for considering my concerns. I look forward to your reply.
SAMPLE LETTER TO COCA-COLA:
Douglas N. Daft
Chief Executive Officer
The Coca-Cola Company
P.O. Box 1734
Atlanta, GA, USA 30301
Fax: (404) 676-6792
Dear Mr. Daft,
As one of the most prominent, long-standing sponsors of the Olympic Games, Coca-Cola is in a particularly influential position to promote the values and ideals upon which the Olympic movement has been built. I believe that one of the most important challenges facing Coca-Cola and other sponsors is the prospect of Beijing hosting the Games in 2008.
Awarding the Games to Beijing was a highly controversial decision, as you know, due to China's poor human rights record. And I am sure that Coca-Cola is fully aware that its corporate image could be tarnished if the Chinese government acts in a harsh, repressive way towards journalists or Chinese dissidents prior to or during the Games.
On the other hand, with China eager to present a positive image to the outside world, the period between now and 2008 offers a window of opportunity to urge the Chinese government to fully comply with its international human rights obligations.
I hope you will take the following minimal steps, as a responsible corporate citizen, in relation to the Games in China:
--Urge the Chinese government to immediately release Shan Chengfeng, who is now serving a two-year sentence in a Chinese labor camp for doing nothing more than circulating a petition in January 2001 asking the IOC to help secure the release of her husband and other political prisoners. Her continued detention for "disturbing social order" violates China's international human rights commitments. It is also a very disturbing precedent for what may happen to other dissidents who dare to raise their voices publicly prior to or during the Games. For this reason, Coca-Cola should intervene on her behalf.
-- Call on the IOC to establish a human rights monitoring committee for Beijing. Such a committee could seek safeguards against arbitrary arrests of peaceful protestors, and make sure China honors its pledge to allow all foreign journalists "complete freedom" to report when they go to China to cover the Games. It could also begin working now to monitor the treatment of Beijing residents and migrants affected by the building of Olympic facilities to ensure they are treated fairly.
Thank you for taking my concerns into consideration. I look forward to your reply.