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Mr. Jim Skinner  
Chief Executive Officer  
McDonald's Corporation  
2111 McDonald's Drive  
Oak Brook, IL 60523  
Ref.: Human rights and the Beijing Games  
Dear Mr. Skinner,  

On September 19 and again on December 19, 2007, we wrote to you outlining human rights abuses taking place in China as a result of its hosting the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. We asked McDonald's Corporation, whose reputation is closely linked to the Games as a result of its status as a TOP sponsor, to use its influence to address these abuses with the Chinese government. We have not heard back from McDonald's and/or are not aware of any positive steps the company has taken to address the deteriorating human rights climate in China.

In light of the ongoing violence and repression in Tibet, the arrest and trials of leading human rights activists, the violation of press freedom commitments and other human rights violations in China, McDonald's will need to explain to its consumers and shareholders the contradiction between its silence on these and other human rights violations and its stated commitment to corporate social responsibility. Updated information on human rights violations in China, including those specifically linked to the Beijing Games, is available here: Now is the time to act.

We would like to meet with you at your earliest convenience to discuss what steps McDonald's can still take in the few remaining months before the opening ceremony on August 8 to ensure the Games are conducted in a manner that respects human rights.

Those steps could include:

1) Make a public statement of support for the human rights dimensions of the Olympic Charter, which describes Olympism as based on the "respect for universal fundamental ethical principles." The Charter further states that the goal of Olympism is to "place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity."

2) Publicly certify that your operations, including any supply chains and Olympic-related facilities, do not entail labor abuses or other rights violations. We are enclosing for your information Human Rights Watch's new report, "One Year of My Blood": Exploitation of Migrant Construction Workers in Beijing.

3) Urge the Chinese authorities and the International Olympic Committee to fulfill their human rights commitments that were stated when the Games were awarded. In particular, urge them to guarantee "full freedom to report" for the media.

4) Address the cases of courageous advocates who have been harassed, detained and jailed due to Olympic-related criticisms. Details are attached to this letter.

5) Urge the IOC to establish a standing committee or mechanism to address human rights abuses in host countries, or to designate an existing body such as the IOC Ethics Committee to respond to these abuses in a proactive way. So long as the IOC awards the Games to governments engaging in human rights violations, such as China or Russia, there will be a need to have institutionalized mechanisms to address such concerns.

6) Prior to the Olympic Torch¡¦s passage through Tibet, press the Chinese government to: (a) lift its lock-down of all Tibetan areas, including allowing full media access; (b) account for the missing and dead from this month's protests; (c) publish the names of all individuals detained and their places of detention; and (d) give immediate access to independent monitors who can investigate whether detainees are being tortured or mistreated.

We urge you to undertake these steps expeditiously as the Games are almost four months away. China's performance on human rights, both in its domestic and foreign policies, is under scrutiny by consumers worldwide as never before. The Chinese government's failure to take positive action--and the silence of Olympics sponsors to press for improvements--would undoubtedly taint the reputation of the Beijing Games and their supporters.

We look forward to learning what steps you have taken, and will take, to ensure respect for human rights both privately and as part of a public debate on the Beijing Games.


Arvind Ganesan
Business and Human Rights Director

Sophie Richardson
Asia Advocacy Director

Minky Worden
Media Director


  • Olympic Profiles in Courage: cases of activists detained on charges linked to the Beijing Games
  • Human Rights Watch report, "One Year of My Blood": Exploitation of Migrant Construction Workers in Beijing (March 2008) Also available at: ””
  • New York Times editorial, "Empty Olympic Promises," February 4, 2008



Six cases of human rights activists who are in detention or under house arrest on charges linked to the Beijing Games

  • Yang Chunlin, a 54-year-old land rights activist from Heilongjiang province, was sentenced to five years in prison on March 24, 2008 for "inciting subversion against state power." Yang was arrested in July 2007 for his involvement in a petition "We Want Human Rights, Not the Olympics" protesting against illegal land seizures by officials and signed by more than 10,000 people. Yang's trial on February 19, 2008, lasted less than a day and was marred by human rights violations and denial of due process. These abuses included the court's failure to investigate his serious allegations of torture, denial by the police of access to his defense lawyers until many weeks after Yang's initial arrest, police intimidation against relatives and threats made against the defense lawyers. Yang's sentencing means it will soon be official that objecting to the Olympics is a crime in China. This case also stands in direct contradiction to the assertion that "People in China enjoy extensive freedom of speech. No one will get arrested because he said that human rights are more important than the Olympics." This statement, reported by Reuters, was made by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on February 28 during a visit by British Foreign Secretary David Milibank.
  • Hu Jia, a 34 year-old Beijing-based human rights activist, was detained on suspicion of "inciting subversion of state power" on December 27, 2007, and formally arrested on January 30. Hu has openly challenged the Chinese government for its failure to honor its promise to promote human rights when it bid to host the Olympic Games. Hu Jia's lawyers were put under house arrest and prohibited from visiting him on the grounds that his case involves "state secrets." His trial is due to open on March 18, and he faces up to five years in prison. In an open letter titled "The Real China and the Olympics" cosigned with Teng Biao on September 10, 2007, Hu Jia wrote: "Please be aware that the Olympic Games will be held in a country where there are no elections, no freedom of religion, no independent courts, no independent trade unions; where demonstrations and strikes are prohibited; where torture and discrimination are supported by a sophisticated system of secret police; where the government encourages the violation of human rights and dignity, and is not willing to undertake any of its international obligations."
  • Zeng Jinyan, Hu Jia's 24 year-old wife and fellow dissident, has been under house arrest since May 18, 2007. She has not been able to go out or receive visits since Hu was taken away. She has not been able to directly contact him since his detention. Zeng Jinyan started a widely read blog in 2006, when Hu was first detained by Chinese authorities without any legal proceedings. Zeng Jinyan and Hu Jia were initially placed under house arrest--in a housing compound actually named "Freedom City"--during seven months, from August 2006 to March 2007. The couple's documentary of their plight, titled "Prisoners of Freedom City," can be seen in part on Internet sites like YouTube. On May 17, 2007, Zeng Jinyan was selected as one of TIME Magazine's "100 People Who Shape Our World in 2007" in the category "Heroes and Pioneers."
  • Ye Guozhu, a 53 year-old housing rights activist, is serving a four-year prison sentence for seeking to organizing protests against forced evictions ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In 2003 Ye Guozhu was forcibly evicted from his home in Beijing--like thousands of other residents of the capital--to make way for Olympic Games construction projects. Soon after seeking permission in August 2004 to hold a 10,000 person march for other evictees in September of that year, during the annual meeting of the Communist Party Central Committee, he was arrested on "suspicion of disturbing social order." On December 18, 2004, Ye was sentenced to four years in prison. According to Amnesty International, Ye has reported experiencing the following forms of torture in prison: suspension from the ceiling by the arms and beatings, being forced to sit upright on a hard chair for extended periods, having to wear hand-cuffs and fetters until swelling occurred and being beaten with electro-shock batons.
  • Ye Guoqiang, Ye Guozhu's brother, has been detained since September 2007, on suspicion of "inciting subversion." Ye Guozhu's son Ye Mingjun has been released on bail and awaits trial on a similar charge. In 2003, officials of Xuanwu District in Beijing seized a restaurant owned by Ye Guozhu and Ye Guoqiang as well as their living quarters. The authorities offered as compensation, far below market value, a newspaper stand and a dilapidated house in remote Tong County. Although Ye Guozhu and Ye Guoqiang refused this offer, their restaurant was demolished to make way for construction related to the 2008 Beijing Games, leading to further protests by members of the Ye family and their subsequent detention.
  • Wang Ling, sent to a labor camp in November 2007 to undergo 15 months of re-education for signing petitions and preparing banners in protest against the demolition of her property for Olympic construction projects. As reported by Amnesty International, she was beaten on numerous occasions. Wang Ling is currently being held at Daxing Reeducation-Through-Labor Facility in Beijing.

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