Saturday, May 26, 2007

No Olympics boycott - Little chance for U.S. boycott of Beijing Olympics

Date: Fri, 25 May 2007 20:50:47 -0400
From: "Tenant"
Subject: Olympic boycott prospects in doubt; China crackdown opponents
(2 articles)

UPI Poll: No Olympics boycott

WASHINGTON, May 25 (UPI) -- There was light support among UPI-Zogby International poll participants for the idea of a boycott of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing on human rights grounds.

A grass-roots effort has called for the international community to stay away from the Beijing Olympics next year because of China's record on human rights.

But among the 5,141 U.S. residents who took part in a May 16-18 Zogby interactive poll, few supported such a boycott. A total of 10.4 percent said the United States should boycott the 2008 Olympics while 12 percent said they weren't sure and 77.6 percent said there should be no U.S. boycott.

A total of 72.1 percent of those asked said they either strongly or somewhat disagreed that sending a U.S. team to the Olympics in China would "serve as U.S. validation of Chinese government policies."

The subsets of respondents most likely to support a boycott turned out to be the "progressives," 15.9 percent of who said there should be a U.S. boycott, and the "very conservative," 19.2 percent of whom support that idea.

The overall sample was consistent when asked about a potential boycott of products of U.S. corporations that sponsor the Beijing Games. A total of 72.7 percent said there should be no such action while 13.7 percent said consumers should take that step. Another 13.5 percent said they weren't sure.

There is a margin of error of 1.4 percentage points in the data.

Analysis: Little chance for U.S. boycott of Beijing Olympics
By Shihoko Goto Published Today China , Human Rights Unrated
Music to China's ears
by Shihoko Goto
UPI Senior Correspondent

TOKYO -- China's human rights record and its authoritarian regime are disturbing to many Americans, but calls for the United States to boycott the Beijing Olympics next summer in protest remain in the minority.

The UPI/Zogby poll of more than 5,000 Americans, weighted to make it representative of the country as a whole, found that even though more than 46 percent do not expect China to make any changes in its human rights policies as a result of hosting the Olympics, a resounding 78 percent of respondents said the United States should not boycott the summer games in protest.

Meanwhile, nearly 39 percent "strongly disagreed" with the idea that U.S. participation in the Beijing Olympics would validate Chinese government policies, while about 34 percent "somewhat disagreed" with the statement. Moreover, 33 percent said they were "somewhat favorable" towards the International Olympic Committee's decision to award the 2008 summer games to Beijing, with nearly 12 percent stating that they were "very favorable" about the outcome.

Such findings should be music to the ears of the Chinese authorities, who are stepping up efforts not only to build up their capital's infrastructure to host the games, but are also cleaning up the streets and air quality to meet international standards. Certainly, the Olympics are seen as an opportunity for Beijing to showcase itself as a global metropolis, and for the Chinese government to highlight its cultural accomplishments as much as its economic might.

Yet many international advocacy groups are rallying to increase pressure to get the Chinese authorities to respect human rights if they are to host the games. In fact, Amnesty International is concerned that the games are being used as an excuse for the government to purge dissidents from the capital.

"If the Chinese authorities and the International Olympic Committee are serious about the Olympics having a 'lasting legacy' for China, they should be concerned that the Games are being used as a pretext to entrench and extend forms of detention that have been on China's reform agenda for many years," said Catherine Baber, Amnesty's Asia-Pacific director.

Crackdown on opposition has intensified

Most advocacy groups broadly agree that while China is making steady progress in preparing to host the Olympics, there has been almost no change in the country's political climate, and some argue that the crackdown on government opposition has actually only intensified. A group of human rights organizations including the Federation for a Democratic China, which was founded by Chinese exiles after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre to rally for political freedom in the country, wrote to IOC President Jacques Rogge last week calling for the committee to hold the Beijing Organizing Committee accountable for the lack of progress on human rights since 2001, when the city won the right to host the games.

Those calling for the independence of Tibet too are clamoring for foreign governments to challenge the Chinese authorities about their hold on the region, particularly as Beijing is limiting media access to Tibet both before and during the games.

"The opportunity that the Olympics bring to foreign journalists to interview individuals freely all over China has been denied in Tibet. Again the Tibetans have been betrayed with another promise broken in the full sight of the international community," argued Yael Weisz Rind, director of the London-based Free Tibet Campaign.

Public support for such campaigns appears to be on the rise. Of the 5,141 adults surveyed between May 16 and 18, Zogby found that 57 percent would "strongly oppose" the Chinese government suppressing demonstrations by human rights organizations during the Olympics, only 28 percent of respondents said they would "strongly support" advocacy groups using the games as an opportunity to make political statements against the country's human rights policies.

Still, most Americans are hesitant to vote with their wallets against China's human rights record. Questioned whether U.S. consumers should boycott products of U.S. corporations who sponsor the Beijing games, nearly three-quarters of those polled said that they were against boycotting products, with only 14 percent being for such a move.

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Date: Tue, 29 May 2007 04:02:38 -0400
From: "Tenant"
Subject: China and the Olympics­Repression Increases Amidst 'Reform'

China and the Olympics­Repression Increases Amidst 'Reform'
By Gary Feuerberg
Epoch Times Washington, D.C. Staff
May 28, 2007

Amnesty International (AI) released its 2007
annual report on May 23, an assessment of human
rights worldwide. Not surprisingly, the report
finds China as a nation with severe violations of human rights.

But there is a difference this time. With the
Olympic Games only a little more than a year away
in August 2008, Chinese leaders are offering a
few reforms­judicial review of death sentences
and a relaxing of restrictions on foreign journalists.

But according to AI, these improvements are not
all that they might seem, and are overshadowed by
the expression of even more intolerance towards
political and religious dissent, and the
attorneys who defend the dissenters. Controls on
domestic journalism and the Internet are also tightening up.

Moreover, in its latest assessment of China's
progress towards making human rights improvements
which were promised for hosting the 2008
Olympics, AI found that the Olympics is acting as
a catalyst to extend the use of house arrests of
activists and detentions without trial, at least
in Beijing, thereby restricting their personal
freedom, while at the same time the communist
regime avoids the appearance of formally imprisoning them.

Amnesty International Rebuts the Chinese Regime

When Beijing was selected by the International
Olympic Committee (IOC) in July 2001, China
agreed to make progress in its human rights
standing. The Olympic Charter states,
"...Olympism seeks to create a way of life based
on the joy found in effort, the educational value
of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles."

In September 2006, AI expressed its
disappointment in a report to Chinese authorities
and the International Olympic Committee (IOC),
regarding the poor progress China is making with
respect to human rights. The regime ignored the
detailed AI report and when asked about it at a
news conference, the Foreign Ministry
spokesperson, Qin Gang, accused AI of being
"biased against China" and of "politicizing" the Olympic Games.

Amnesty International responded first of all that
it has no political agenda and that its sole
reason for existence is for the sake of human
rights in China and elsewhere in the world. AI
said that when Beijing was awarded the Olympics,
Chinese officials themselves repeatedly linked
the hosting by Beijing with human rights.

The IOC says it relies on international human
rights organizations like AI to monitor and
report on human rights developments, according to
AI. In other words, AI has a legitimate role to
play here which Chinese officials tacitly
acknowledged upon being selected in 2001.

"The concerns which Amnesty International is
[sic] raising in the run-up to the Olympic Games
are human rights issues which have a direct link
with preparations for the Olympics in Beijing or
with core principles in the Olympic Charter,"
says an AI report (Sept. 30, 2006).

"The IOC cannot want an Olympics that is tainted
with human rights abuses­whether families
forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for
sports arenas or growing numbers of peaceful
activists held under 'house arrest' to stop them
drawing attention to human rights issues," said
Catherine Baker, Deputy Asia Pacific Director at AI.

The IOC has sent mixed messages as to how serious
they are in enforcing an agreement that China
would have to improve its human rights record to
be host of the 2008 Games, according to AI. The
human rights organization recognizes the
considerable leverage that the IOC has on the
Chinese rulers and urges the IOC to raise the
human rights concerns publicly, if necessary, as the Olympics approach.

On another front, China has been criticized by
the Bush administration for not doing enough to
pressure the Sudanese government in accepting the
UN plan to station 20,000 soldiers and police in
the Darfur region to protect the population.

The Washington Post reported on May 19 that a
letter was sent to the Chinese regime, signed by
108 members of the U.S. House of Representatives,
which the Post summarized, "Beijing Olympics
could be endangered if China did not change its
policies in Sudan." China's Foreign Minister Yang
Jiechi said on May 18 that it was contrary to the
"Olympic spirit" to link the Beijing Olympics
with Chinese policy in Darfur, says the Post.

China's New Strategy on Activism

More tolerance for a few dissidents is used to
mask the persecution of many others who try to
report or campaign more widely on human rights
violations. For example, two veteran dissidents
who were active in the 1989 pro-democracy
movement were allowed to travel to Hong Kong for
the first time. Meanwhile, however, "many more
activists face intimidation, arbitrary detention
and intrusive surveillance of family members," says AI.

An example of the latter is Ye Guozhu, who is
serving a 4-year prison sentence for organizing a
demonstration against forced evictions in
Beijing. He was reportedly beaten at the end of
2006 with electro-shock batons at Chaobai prison in Beijing.

Another example cited is defense attorney Gao
Zhisheng, who is being held by police "as a
prisoner in his own home." Gao has not been
allowed to practice law after he published an
open letter to Hu Jintao (the head of the Chinese
communist regime), calling for religious freedom,
the rule of law, and an end to the "barbaric"
persecution of the Falun Gong. When recently held
in police custody, Gao told AI that he was
treated harshly, which included being handcuffed
and forced to sit in an iron chair or
cross-legged for extended periods, with bright
lights shown upon him. He was convicted of "inciting subversion."

Death Penalty Review

One reform touted by the Chinese regime is that
now the Supreme People's Court "resumed its role
of approving all death sentences passed in
China," which on the face of it sounds like
progress. AI expressed concern, however, that the
review procedure focuses on largely ensuring that
the death penalty is applied in a uniform manner
across provinces "rather than effectively
addressing potential miscarriages of justice in individual cases."

AI said it was concerned that a limited paper
review would not expose the use of torture by the
police to extort confessions when the evidence
relating to such abuses had not been introduced
in the trial. AI used the example of Xu Shuangfu,
a Protestant leader, who was executed with 11
others last November. Xu reportedly said he had
been beaten with heavy chains and sticks,
electric shock to the toes, fingers, and genitals
and forced injection of hot pepper, gasoline and
ginger into the nose to force his confession. The
court and appeals courts would not allow his
lawyers to introduce these allegations as evidence in his defense, says AI.

Double Standard

Despite the promise of "complete media freedom"
during the Olympics, foreign reporters are
finding that in practice the Chinese communist
regime often doesn't live up to its word. The new
regulations introduced in January 1, 2007, allow
foreign journalists to conduct interviews and
investigations without getting local approval.
However, the "reform" does not in practice apply
to places like Tibet and Xinjiang. Further, the
regime is not making the change in policy
permanent­it will expire this October.

Reporters without Borders reported on May 25:

"Harald Maass, China correspondent of the German
daily Frankfurter Rundschau, and Tim Johnson, the
China correspondent of the US newspaper chain
McClatchy, were summoned separately on May 15 by
Zhang Lizhong, a division director at the foreign
ministry's information department, for
questioning about their trip to Tibet in April."

Zhang warned Maass that his reporting from Tibet
was a "mistake, according to the Reporters
without Reporters' report. Zhang told Johnson
that parts of his articles were "false" and "unacceptable."

Zhang also told Maass that he had the right to
travel to Tibet under the new rules for the
foreign press, but he still needed to obtain an
authorization from the representatives of the
local ministry in Lhasa, Tibet, according to Reporters without Borders.

Zhang said the new regulations do not apply to
reporting from Tibet, said Reporters without Borders quoting Johnson.

"When Maass and Johnson arrived in Lhasa, they
found themselves being followed and harassed by
Chinese plain-clothes policemen. Tibetans they
talked to were fined," says Reporters without Borders.

While the new regulations, though temporary,
appear to be a step in the right direction for
the foreign journalists, Chinese domestic
journalism, meanwhile, has suffered some major
setbacks. New domestic media controls impose more
censorship by the state-run media, Xinhua.

For instance, at the beginning of the year, the
Chinese Communist Party Central Propaganda
Department banned news reports on 20 specific
issues, including judicial corruption and
campaigns to protect human rights, says AI.
Another ruling subjects media to a new penalty
points system, whereby they are closed down if
they lose all their points for "wrongdoings."

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