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China: Hosting Olympics a Catalyst for Human Rights Abuses

IOC and World Leaders Fail to Challenge Great Leap Backward for Rights in China

(New York) - The hosting of the 2008 Beijing Olympics has set back the clock for the respect of human rights in the People’s Republic of China, Human Rights Watch said ahead of the Games’ closing ceremony in Beijing on Sunday, August 24. Over the past year Human Rights Watch has monitored and documented extensive human rights violations directly linked to the preparation and the hosting of the Games.

“The 2008 Beijing Games have put an end – once and for all – to the notion that these Olympics are a ‘force for good,’” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “The reality is that the Chinese government’s hosting of the Games has been a catalyst for abuses, leading to massive forced evictions, a surge in the arrest, detention, and harassment of critics, repeated violations of media freedom, and increased political repression.”

Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), told Reuters in August 2007 that, “We believe the Games are going to move ahead the agenda of the social and human rights as far as possible, the Games are going to be a force for good.”

Human Rights Watch pointed out that, to the contrary, the Chinese government has consistently violated its Olympics-related human rights commitments. In addition, the International Olympic Committee has failed in its duty to ensure that the government fulfilled those pledges. The Chinese government’s unrelenting campaign during the Games to squelch legal peaceful protests, limit media freedom, and restrict the internet access of journalists reinforces the urgent need for the IOC to establish a permanent mechanism to monitor the human rights performance and compliance of future Olympic host countries.

“Not a single world leader who attended the Games or members of the IOC seized the opportunity to challenge the Chinese government’s behavior in any meaningful way,” Richardson said. “Will anyone wonder, after the Games are over, why the Chinese government remains intransigent about human rights?”

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