Juan Antonio Samaranch
International Olympic Committee
Chateau de Vidy
Case Postale 356
1007 Lausanne Switzerland
Dear President Samaranch:
As Beijing becomes a leading contender to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, we urge the I.O.C. to seek commitments from the Chinese government now about protection of human rights before and during the games. We are not opposed a priori to China's hosting the games. We are concerned, however, that every previous major international event that China has hosted, from the 1990 East Asian Games to the 1995 International Women's Conference, has been preceded by arrests designed to eliminate any sign of protest or dissent, and evictions of migrants or homeless people whose presence might be considered unsightly. The Chinese government has also sought to restrict access to such events, refusing visas to journalists and to individuals linked in some way to Taiwan, Tibet, or Xinjiang, or to organizations that have taken stands critical of Chinese government policies.
If the I.O.C. were to request and secure written commitments on human rights protections now, it would reassure many around the world who are disturbed by China's human rights practices. If the I.O.C. failed to receive such commitments, on the other hand, the desirability of selecting Beijing might well be questioned.
We believe the I.O.C., at a minimum, should seek two specific commitments:
That if Beijing is chosen, the international media covering the Games will have unrestricted access to the country and that there will be no discrimination against journalists or participants based on their political or religious views or country of origin.
That if Beijing is selected, China will allow the IOC to set up a monitoring committee that includes at least one human rights expert to review security plans for the Games and try to ensure that safeguards against human rights violations are built in. Independent monitors should also have regular access to building sites to ensure that migrant workers and other residents of the areas in question are treated in accordance with international human rights standards.
We know the I.O.C. does not take political factors into account in making its choice of host city. But protecting human rights is about fairness, dignity, and equality, values that are intrinsic to the Games themselves. To seek assurances from a potential host that no one will suffer because of the Games would seem to be firmly in keeping with the Olympic ideal.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.