Skip to main content

President Nicolas Sarkozy
Monsieur le Président de la République
Palais de l'Elysée
55, rue du faubourg Saint-Honoré
75008 Paris


Dear President Sarkozy:

On April 9, Human Rights Watch wrote to you regarding our concerns about the human rights situation in China just months away from the start of the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. We asked that you delay accepting an invitation to the Olympics until the Chinese government makes progress on four key human rights issues. A copy of that letter is attached; to date we have not received a response.

You have publicly stated that because of the ongoing crackdown in Tibet, your attendance at the Olympics depended on a renewal of dialogue between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese authorities. Today, the Chinese authorities announced that they may hold talks with envoys of the Dalai Lama in the coming days, and you have already welcomed this announcement as a “major step forward” and a reason for “real hope.” You also said during your television interview yesterday that China was “helping the world,” and cited China’s role Darfur as an example.

While we acknowledge that a dialogue is necessary for progress in securing the human rights of Tibetans, and that China has taken some constructive steps with respect to Darfur, these alone should not be considered sufficient to accept the Olympics invitation. Demonstrations against Chinese oppression in Tibetan areas are ongoing, and the authorities continue respond harshly. “Patriotic education” campaigns are being held in monasteries, forcing monks and others to renounce their allegiance to the Dalai Lama, their spiritual/religious leader, and to promise to support Beijing’s rule. According to the central government, thousands of Tibetans are to be tried in the coming weeks on charges ranging from rioting to subversion with no indication that they will be granted even minimal standards of due process. And in Darfur, there remains a great deal more for China to do to help protect the region’s people.

Human Rights Watch has called upon the Chinese government to take several urgent steps to address pressing human rights concerns. We reiterate that your attendance at the Olympic ceremonies should depend on the Chinese government:

  • 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, 2008. The investigation should focus on issues such as access to prisoners, excessive use of force including unlawful killings, torture in custody, arbitrary detentions, infringements on the right to peaceful assembly, and the violation of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, association, and religion. The findings of this investigation should 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 limited by their government minders.
  • 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 to three-and-a half and five years in prison, 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 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 Security Council.

Especially as France holds the European Union presidency, we believe that your decision is crucially important across the continent. We would be pleased to meet with your office to discuss these matters further.


Jean-Marie Fardeau

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.

Most Viewed