(Tokyo) - Japanese government officials planning to attend the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games should address the silencing of dissent in China and encourage the Chinese government to honor its Olympic pledges to improve human rights in the context of the Games, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth will be in Japan in mid-March to discuss a range of human rights concerns in Asia.

Releasing a letter to Japan’s Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, Human Rights Watch strongly urged Japan to promote human rights and media freedom in advance of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, set to open in August 2008. With less than five months until the Games begin, Human Rights Watch said the human rights climate in China is deteriorating, and that concerted international attention is required to convince Beijing to change course.

“Since top government officials will attend the Olympics in China, Japan should use its leverage to encourage Beijing to improve human rights,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “The Japanese government’s apparent lack of a public strategy to address Olympic-related human rights issues in China in advance of the Beijing Games is a concern.”

In its January 8 letter to Prime Minister Fukuda, Human Rights Watch asked:

  • What steps Japan is taking to raise its concerns about human rights abuses related to the 2008 Olympic Games with the Chinese government, including the exploitation of migrant construction workers documented in Human Rights Watch’s new report “One Year of My Blood.” What is the strategy of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for raising such concerns over the remaining months before the Games open?
  • What will the Japanese government do prior to and during the Olympic Games to ensure that the many Japanese journalists who will go to Beijing and their international and local translators, facilitators, photographers and other staff are not detained, harassed or otherwise abused for taking at face value the Chinese government’s commitment to press freedom?
  • What obligations does the Japanese government expect the Japanese Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee to fulfill with respect to human rights in China?

Human Rights Watch has called on the Japanese administration to insist on tangible improvements from the Chinese government. If progress, particularly on press freedom, is not made, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and other senior Japanese officials should consider declining invitations to attend the opening or closing ceremonies of the Beijing Games.