Activists from Reporters Without Borders today (15 October 2007) demonstrated in front of the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, unfurling a giant flag in which the Olympic rings appear in the form of interlocking handcuffs.
The demonstration marked the opening of the 17th Chinese Communist Party Congress in Beijing attended by more than 2,200 delegates, who are expected to give a boost to the leadership of President Hu Jintao whose period in power has been marked by a harder ideological line in the name of a “harmonious society”.
“We hope through this action to challenge the IOC and its president Jacques Rogge, who refuse to condemn the bad state of human rights in China,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“We have also contacted the IOC’s ethical commission but they replied that they can only be activated by Jacques Rogge himself. This lack of will on the part of Olympic bodies is worrying,” the organisation added.
“For the past several weeks an icy wind has blown through freedom of expression in China. This with less than 10 months to go before the opening of the Olympic Games. How can the IOC and its ethical commission remain silent before such a heavy toll of violations of freedom of expression?” it asked.
“More than 30 foreign journalists have been arrested and prevented from working since the start of the year. No fewer than one thousand discussion forums and websites have been closed since July. And a score of dissidents have been imprisoned for expressing themselves freely,” Reporters Without Borders said.
Preparation for the Congress, a key event in the life of China’s sole political party, saw new restrictions slapped on all sectors of the press, Internet-users, bloggers, website managers, foreign journalists and defenders of freedom of expression.
There has been an increase in directives ordering the media to use only reports put out by the official Xinhua news agency. The Publicity (formerly Propaganda) Department has ordered state-run newspapers to step up news linked to the preparation of the Congress and the activities of the leadership.
Recently, five of the major official dailies brought out identical front pages, with the headline: “The 17th Congress of the CCP is set to be hot, hot, hot!” Next to it was the same article about Chinese leaders ordering a mining company to do its utmost to rescue workers trapped in a pit. The same photo of President Hu Jintao on a visit to Kazakhstan also appears on the cover page.
Several dozen online discussion forums, including Ai Zhi Fang Zhou (www.chain.net.cn/forum) devoted to the patients with Aids, have been closed. The managers have been told that they will only be allowed to reopen once the Congress is over. Several hundred websites and blogs have been closed in the last two months.
On the eve of the Congress, the Party has also spearheaded a campaign for greater morality in the media, which led to a suspension of several reality television programmes. The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) on 14 September quoted the fight against pornography as a reason to ban 11 radio programmes about sexuality. “Their content on sexual life and the effectiveness of medication for sexual problems was of an extremely pornographic nature,” the administration said. The SARFT also added that “films that were not suitable for children were also not suitable for adults”.