As the Athens Olympic Games enter their final days and approach the closing ceremony, at which the Olympic flag will be handed over to the mayor of Beijing, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) today awarded China an additional gold medal - one for human rights violations.
China’s repression of dissidents, including journalists and cyber-dissidents, has not let up during these games. The People’s Republic of China is the world’s biggest prison for the press. Twenty-seven journalists and more than 60 Internet users are detained for crimes of opinion.
The leading journalist Cheng Yizhong has been detained without trial for the past five months for reporting a suspected case of SARS and the death of student while being tortured in a police station in Guangzhou. Two of his colleagues have been sentenced to six and eight years in prison for the same reason.
Journalists with the foreign media are always viewed with suspicion by the Chinese authorities and are sometimes the target of threats and violence. Police hit an Associated Press photographer and manhandled one of his colleagues from Agence France-Presse on 7 August while they were covering the xenophobic rioting that followed the Asia Cup soccer final in Beijing.
Moreover, the Chinese government has acquired a new system for monitoring mobile phone text messages in real time. This technology allows the authorities to filter messages for key words and identify those sending "reactionary" messages. The public security ministry has already been monitoring the Internet extensively and jamming some foreign radio stations.
The next Olympic Games will open in Beijing four years from now. China is already far from keeping its promises to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), especially its undertakings about the free flow of information. The IOC must do everything possible to get Beijing to respect basic freedoms, or else the Olympic spirit will be badly trampled on as it was already at the Moscow Games in 1980. Dozens of countries boycotted those games and the political police arrested hundreds of dissidents.
After waging a campaign against Beijing’s successful bid to host the next Olympics, Reporters Without Borders has launched www.boycottbeijing2008.net to rally opinion against the Chinese Communist Party’s dictatorship.