09.09 - Official press makes no mention of size of street protest in Hunan province
The Chinese media reported that there was a street protest by embezzlement victims in Jinshou, in Hunan province, on 5 September but they stressed the rapidity of the local government’s response and did not mention the size of the demonstration or the fact that there were about 20 arrests and some people 50 were injured. The participants - who numbered more than 10,000, according to independent sources - stopped cars and trains from circulating in order to press their demand for the reimbursement of the money they had paid to a local company.
08.09 - Conditional release for would-be Olympics demonstrator
Zhang Wei was released in Beijing on 6 September after being held for a month for talking to foreign journalists and wanting to demonstrate during the Olympic Games. A few days after applying for a demonstration permit, she was arrested and placed in a detention centre for three days. Her period of detention was then extended to a month without any trial being held. In order to be freed, Zhang had to promise not to give any more interviews to foreign journalists and to keep her mobile phone with her at all times so that she can be reached by the police. Her son told the Associated Press: “There was no reasonable explanation for why those conditions were attached to her release.”
05.09 - Release of two activists arrested on Olympics opening ceremony day
Li Jincheng and Cui Fufang, two human rights activists who were arrested separately on the day of the Olympic Games opening ceremony, were released on 3 September. A lawyer and Catholic, Li had submitted a request to hold a demonstration. But then he was kidnapped by unidentified individuals on 8 August and three days later he was sent to Jia Yuguan prison in his home province of Gansu, where he was questioned about his reasons for going to Beijing and his contacts with foreign news media.
After his release, Li told Radio Free Asia: “The police asked me to prove my innocence and called me a heretic. I replied that I was a Catholic. I was beaten several times by policemen who tried to make me confess my guilt. When I realised I was not going to be freed, I went on hunger strike.”
No explanation was given when Cui, a human rights activist and petition campaigner, was arrested on 8 August, and his family ceased to receive any information about him on 14 August. After finally being released, Cui told Radio Free Asia he was afraid to go back to his family. “The police could still come and arrest me at any moment,” he said.
04.09 - Authorities close human rights website
Internet Rights Defence China (www.315wqchina.com), a website that reports on actions taken by citizens to defend human rights, was closed by the authorities on 21 August, apparently because it posted a poem by a former member of the Shanghai police who has become a human rights activist. The site has already been shut down several times since its creation in 2001.
04.09 - Jailed blind lawyer’s family cut off by phone in run-up to Paralympics
Reporters Without Borders condemns the Chinese government’s attempts to prevent foreign journalists who go to Beijing to cover this month’s Paralympics from getting in touch with those close to blind human rights lawyer and activist Chen Guangcheng, who is serving a four-year sentence in Linyi prison, in Shandong province.
The phones of his relatives and the residents of his village have been blocked. His lawyer has also been affected by the measures.
His wife, Yuan Weijing, told Radio Free Asia: “My mobile phone has had no signal for the past 30 days. At first I tried turning it off and on again, but none of my calls got through. I tried to reach Guangcheng in prison on 2 September, but that call did not get through either. Now it is the same for the people living in the village. Their phone lines are not working.”
Chen, who lost his sight at an early age, was convicted on trumped-up charges in 2006 after he tried to sue the authorities over a campaign of forced sterilization and abortion.
His lawyer, Li Fangping, said he was not surprised to learn that the phones had been blocked. “Chen Guangcheng is visually-handicapped,” he said. “His case interests the international community in the run-up to the Paralympics, so the government is using illegal methods to short-circuit Guangcheng’s communications with the outside world.”
03.09 - Wuhan teacher still not freed after preemptive arrest prior to games
Zhou Yunfeng wrote an open letter to the authorities on 1 September asking them to release her husband, teacher Jin Guangming, who was arrested in mid-July to prevent him going to Beijing to protest during the Olympic Games. Earlier this year, Jin signed a petition criticising the arbitrary demolition of homes because he and his wife received no compensation when their home in Wuhan province was demolished in 2003 and since then they have been living with relatives.
Zhou told Radio Free Asia how her husband came to be arrested. “A week before Guangming was kidnapped, the police went to his office to make him promise not to go to Beijing in connection with the petition during the Olympic Games,” she said. “My husband refused to sign the pledge and the authorities regarded his behaviour as unacceptable.” He was arrested on 19 July and his computer was confiscated. “We went to the Wuhan police station with Guangming’s big sister, but the police said knew nothing about the case.”
Zhou still does not know where her husband is being held. In her open letter, she asks why he has not been released now that the Olympic Games are over.
02.09 - Police harass jailed writer’s wife
The political police began putting pressure on Xia Chunrong, the wife of dissident writer Du Daobin, after his arrest on 21 July, Radio Free Asia reports. She had to change her mobile phone number and suspend all contact with foreigners, especially journalists who wanted to interview her. “My phone calls are monitored and I cannot talk freely,” she said. She hopes things will return to normal and her husband will be released now that the Olympic Games are over. Du had been posting articles online and the reason for his arrest seems to have been concern about what he might say during the games. In June 2004, Du was sentenced to three years in prison followed by four years of house arrest.
01.09 - Reeducation through work for giving interview to foreign journalist
Human Rights in China reports that Wang Guilan, a petition organiser and human rights activist, was sentenced on 28 August to 15 months of reeducation through work for giving a telephone interview to a foreign journalist on 27 July. She has been arrested several times since 2001 and was placed in a detention centre in Hubei province on 17 April to prevent her from staging any protests during the Olympic Games.
“The restrictions on foreign journalists interviewing Chinese without prior permission were lifted during the games but the people giving interviews, such as Wang, are still threatened with imprisonment,” Human Rights in China said. Wang is currently being held in Enshi, in Hubei province.
Reporters Without Borders condemns this post-Olympic conviction and calls on the authorities to reverse their decision, as they have just done in the case of Wu Dianyuan and Wang Xiuying, two Beijing women in their late 70s who were sentenced to a year of reeducation through work on 17 August for wanting to stage a demonstration.
22.08 - Two US citizen journalists, including Brian Conley, and four other activists get 10 days in Beijing prison
Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediate release of six foreigners who have been sentenced by the Chinese police to 10 days of administrative detention in Beijing for "disrupting public order." The police did not give their nationality but it is believed they are the two US citizen journalists and four demonstrators who were arrested in Beijing on 19 August.
The two citizens journalists are Jeff Rae and Brian Conley, the founder of the famous Alive in Baghdad (www.aliveinbaghdad.org) video blog. Conley’s wife told Reporters Without Borders: "I got a text message from my husband a few hours ago saying he was in prison. I have had no news since then." Rae and Conley had been covering the protests staged in Beijing by Students for a Free Tibet, including the protest by New York artist James Powderly.
Four other foreign pro-Tibet activists - a German of Tibetan origin, two Americans and a Briton - were arrested near the national stadium in Beijing after unfurling a Tibetan flag and calling for Tibetan autonomy. Students for a Free Tibet said they were the eighth group to be arrested in Beijing since the start of the Olympic Games. In all, 47 pro-Tibet activists have so far been arrested during the games.
21.08 - Pro-Tibetan protests in Beijing and Kathmandu
Five American activists - Brian Conley, Jeffrey Rae, Jeff Godin, Michael Liss and Tom Grant - were arrested on the evening of 18 August while displaying a banner that spelled out “Free Tibet” in blue lights in English and Chinese near the Olympic stadium. Students for a Free Tibet said a sixth activist, James Powderly, a New York laser artist and co-founder of Graffiti Research Lab, was also arrested as he was about to project the same message on to the side of an Olympic building with a green laser beam. All six were still being held by the police the next day.
Around 200 Tibetan exiles were arrested on 18 August while demonstrating outside the Chinese embassy in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, where the authorities have been cracking down on Tibetan protesters with increasing firmness. It has meanwhile been reported that two Tibetans, Dechen and Tseten Wangmo, were arrested on 2 August while distributing leaflets in the Chinese province of Sichuan, which they managed to enter despite the authorities’ refusal to give them a permit. A Tibetan monk, Tenphel, was arrested on 18 August for similar reasons.
Photo of “Ethnic Park” Protest taken by Detainee Jeffrey Rae on August 13th
20.08 - One-year sentences for two old ladies who wanted to demonstrate
Two elderly ladies were notified on 17 August that they have been sentenced to one year of reeducation through work backdated to 30 July for requesting permission to demonstrate in Beijing during the Olympic Games, Human Rights in China has reported. Wu Dianyuan, 79, and Wang Xiuying, 77, were refused permission five times. The sentences were imposed after they were interrogated for 10 hours. They were also warned that they could receive another sentence if they caused more “trouble”.
20.08 - No permission given for any protest during games, although 77 requests filed
Since 1 August, the Beijing public security bureau has received 77 applications from 149 people (only three of them foreigners) for permission to stage a demonstration. Officials said 74 of the applications were withdrawn by the would-be demonstrators after being dissuaded by the authorities or discouraged by the application process. The very complex application form put off many would-be applicants and allowed the authorities to reject requests that were correctly presented. Two applications were suspended on the grounds that they did not provide sufficient information, and the applicants were invited to resubmit. One application was officially refused. “The applicant wanted to have children take part in the demonstration, which is against the law,” a public security bureau spokesperson said. The Beijing police claim to have kept their promises by designating three areas for demonstrations, but no mention is made of their distance from the city centre or the difficulty of obtaining the required permission.
19.08 - Reporters Without Borders flag hung on Saint-Tropez church
The Reporters Without Borders flag showing the Olympic rings as handcuffs was hung from the tower of the Church of the Assumption in Saint-Tropez on 17 August at the initiative of Father Michel Hayes, a staunch defender of human rights and the Tibetan cause. “I gave my permission for the flag to be displayed because, while I think it is great that the Olympic Games are taking place in China, I think it is unacceptable that some 20 journalists are in prison there,” said Father Hayes, who met the Dalai Lama 20 years ago in London.
The priest added: “I think it is unacceptable that there is no freedom for the press, and for people, there in 2008. The way Tibetan Buddhists are treated is against my principles. You cannot remain silent.” There was a march around the port and centre of Saint-Tropez before the flag was hung on the church.
18.08 - Dissident Tibetan writer again denied passport
Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser received a US State Department invitation to visit the United States last month but the Chinese authorities refused to give her with a passport. The US embassy in Beijing made several unsuccessful attempts to negotiate with the Chinese foreign ministry on her behalf. Woeser, who left Beijing before the Olympic Games opening ceremony to avoid arrest, has been subject to restrictions on her travel for years, In 2003, the authorities refused to let her travel to Tibet without giving her a reason. In March of this year, she was prevented from travelling to Norway to receive a prize for her human rights activities. The authorities do not like Woeser’s blog entries and fear what she might say if she gave interviews.
14.08 - European Greens award Olympic medals to Chinese political prisoners
The Greens Group in the European parliament is awarding symbolic “medals of freedom” to political prisoners in China on each day of the Olympic Games. This follows the group’s earlier initiative of sending a list of political prisoners to French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the hope that he would request their release when he was in Beijing for the opening ceremony.
Each day, the name of a political prisoner who has been awarded a medal is announced on the group’s blog (http://www.greens-efa.org/index.htm). One of the winners is Tenzin Rinpoche Delek, a Tibetan monk who was arrested on 7 April 2002 and was sentenced to life imprisonment on a false charge of involvement in a bombing and in separatist activities.
14.08 - Eight pro-Tibet activists arrested while demonstrating in Beijing
The Chinese authorities yesterday arrested eight pro-Tibet activists - seven Americans and a Japanese of Tibetan origin - who were demonstrating near the Olympic stadium. The New York-based group Students for a Free Tibet said two of them unfurled a banner with the words "Free Tibet" in a park to the south of the stadium, while five others blocked the main entrance to the park, handcuffing themselves to each other and to bicycles. Lhadon Tethong, the head of Students for a Free Tibet, said they wore T-shirts with the same message and had a banner saying "Tibetans are dying for freedom." The seven Americans were put on a flight back to the United States. The Japanese, Pema Yoko, was also due to be deported. A total of 31 members of Students for a Free Tibet have now been expelled from China for demonstrating in support of freedom for Tibet.
13.08 - Journal de Montréal staff demo in support of human rights in China
Members of the staff of the Journal de Montréal, Canada’s most popular French-language newspaper, organised a photo session today outside its headquarters to express their dissatisfaction with Chinese government practices during the Beijing Olympics. Eight journalists wore Reporters Without Borders T-shirts and adopted poses symbolising Chinese government censorship of its citizens.
12.08 - China: report warns journalists about online censorship and spying
Chinese Human Rights Defenders yesterday published a report for tourists and foreign journalists covering the Olympic Games explaining how the government censors the Internet and monitors telecommunications, in particular, its use of sophisticated technologies and tens of thousands of cyber-police.
Entitled “Alternative Guide to the Olympics” (http://crd-net.org/Article/Class9/Class10/200808/20080812154644_9981.html), the report includes examples of the censorship directives for websites and blogs that are issued every day by many central government offices. On 2 July 2007, for example, a ban was issued on coverage of a fire at the Beijing University Olympics Ping Pong Coliseum and ISPs were also told to ensure that any searches for the fire drew a blank.
The same kind of censorship is applied to email and mobile text messages, the report says. As soon as a listed keyword appears, even simple ones such as “falun” (Falun Gong), “rfa” (Radio Free Asia) or “voa” (Voice of America), transmission of the message is stopped. The list is updated each month. In July 2007, for example, the updates included the phrases “Villagers who lost land due to Olympics construction” and “Villagers who lost land due to Bird’s Nest.”
Instant messaging such as MSN, Skype and “QQ” (a Chinese version) are also monitored, the report says, warning that downloading a Chinese version of Skype called Tom-Skype automatically installs a censorship and filtering file without notifying the user.
The complete report in Chinese
11.08 - Three protesters expelled from Olympic equestrian event in Hong Kong
Three human rights activists were expelled from the Olympic equestrian venue in Hong Kong on 9 August. The first was pro-Tibet student Christina Chan, who was seized and removed before she could carry out her plan to unfurl a Tibetan flag. The authorities accused her of violating article 51 of the Olympic Charter banning any “political, religious or racial propaganda.”
Leung Kwok-hung, a member of the Hong Kong legislature, jumped up as a Chinese competitor was participating and shouted in English: “Freedom for China” and “Human rights for China.” Fellow activist Koo Sze-yiu stood up and shouted the same slogans in Chinese. They also managed to hold up a banner saying “Freedom for China, no dictatorship” before being led away.
08.08 - Radio Free Asia journalist refused visa for China
Reporters Without Borders condemns the Chinese government’s refusal to issue a visa to Dhondup Gonsar, a journalist employed by the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia. Two other RFA journalists were allowed to cover the Games. Gonsar requested a visa exactly as they did, but he is still awaiting approval from the Chinese foreign ministry and has not been able to travel.
RFA appealed yesterday to the International Olympic Committee to press the Chinese government to keep its promise to organise the Olympic Games in an open manner. RFA president Libby Liu said: “We deplore this stonewalling by the Chinese authorities (...) We urge the Chinese government to show the world it no longer fears uncensored media in local languages, as is fitting for an emerging world power and Olympics host.”
08.08 - Three Chinese activists denied entry to Hong Kong
Three leading Chinese activists - Yang Jianli, Zhou Jian and Min Wong - were detained on arrival at Hong Kong airport yesterday. Zhou was immediately put on a flight back to Los Angeles. Yang, a former political prisoner, was taken to a detention centre after refusing to be put on a flight back to Tokyo. “I am a Chinese citizen and I have the right to enter my country,” he said in a statement. Min was also taken to a detention centre.
Yang now lives in Washington, where he runs the organisation Initiatives for China. He had been planning to stage a human rights march in Hong Kong to draw attention to the plight of China’s political prisoners. He told Reuters the “autocratic security measures” were the result of direct pressure by the government in Beijing because of the Olympic Games. Human rights lawyer Albert Ho, who went to the airport to help Yang and Wong, said the government was “hysterical” about the games “They are now taking a lot of unnecessary precautions,” he added.
07.08 - Prison conditions have worsened in run-up to Olympic Games
Jailed dissident He Depu says conditions have worsened in China’s prisons in the approach to the Olympic Games, especially for political prisoners. The claim is made in a letter to IOC president Jacques Rogge that was released today by the family of He, who is serving an eight-year sentence.
Written from Block 17 of Beijing No. 2 Prison, the letter says: “As the Olympics approach, prisoners have been put under severe control and surveillance (...) Political prisoners are not allowed to call or meet with their families, obtain a reduced sentence, be interviewed by the media, or participate in recreational activities organized by the prison.”
Addressing Rogge personally, the letter adds: “Each time you come to Beijing and see the joyous spectacles here, do you know that just ten or so kilometres away, Beijing’s political prisoners are suffering immensely for the progress of society and the elevation of human civilization?”
07.08 - 127 athletes write to Chinese president about human rights and Tibet
In an open letter posted online today, 127 athletes have called on President Hu Jintao to improve respect for human rights in China and to seek a peaceful solution in Tibet. The letter is part of an initiative called “Sports for Peace” and is supported by the International Campaign for Tibet and Amnesty International. More than 40 of the signatories are participating in the Beijing Olympics and many have a good chance of winning a medal. They include Croatian high jumper Blanka Vlasic, 110 metres hurdles world record holder Dayron Robles of Cuba, American 400 metres runner DeeDee Trotter and Panamanian long-jumper Irving Saladino.
07.08 - South Korean TV station banned from opening ceremony after filming rehearsal
South Korean TV station SBS has been banned from filming tomorrow’s Olympic Games opening ceremony after broadcasting some of the footage it filmed of a rehearsal. An SBS spokesman said the station will not be allowed to film the ceremony using its own cameras, but will be able to use the feed provided by Beijing Olympic Broadcasting (BOB), the official games broadcaster. SBS denied acting surreptitiously when it filmed the rehearsal.
07.08 - Journalists prevented from attending human rights meetings in Beijing hotel rooms
As demonstrations are banned in Beijing, visiting human rights and religious activists have been holding meetings in their hotel rooms. Journalists were invited to a small hotel room meeting organised by pro-Tibet activists yesterday, but only six had arrived by the time hotel security turned up and stopped the screening of a document about how Tibetans feel about the Olympic Games.
Using a shop-window dummy and fake blood, US pastor Eddie Romero managed to recreate interrogation centres in two other hotel rooms in order to draw attention to the way detained Christians and human rights activists are treated in China. Invited journalists entered the room using a key hidden under a “Do not disturb” sign posted on the door. The authorities quickly put a stop to the demonstration.
06.08 - Chinese authorities revoke visa of US gold medallist and Darfur activist
Joey Cheek, a US Winter Olympics gold medallist in speedskating and co-founder of Team Darfur, a coalition of athletes who draw attention to human rights violations in Darfur, will not after all be able to attend the Beijing Olympics and promote the cause of Darfur there as he had his visa revoked by the Chinese authorities today.
“Despite the fact that I have always spoken positively about the Olympic ideal and never called for a boycott or asked an athlete to violate an IOC rule, my visa has been revoked less than 24 hours before my departure,” Cheek said. “The denial of my visa is a part of a systemic effort by the Chinese government to coerce and threaten athletes who are speaking out on behalf of the innocent people of Darfur.”
05.08 - Cameras and microphones installed all over Beijing
A total of 30,000 surveillance cameras, some with microphones, have been installed througout Beijing. Capable of filming passers-by and recording conversations, they are designed to help the authorities identify suspicious behaviour and locate suspects. An agency has also been set up to equip taxis with GPS devices and microphones. According to Radio Free Asia, a range of surveillance devices are being used, some of them secret, and cutting-edge technology has been acquired from the United States.
01.08 - Dissidents and intellectuals under close watch, some told to leave Beijing during games
Reporters Without Borders condemns an increase in measures aimed at preventing Beijing-based human rights activists from talking to the foreign media. “These measures unfortunately recall those adopted by the Soviet police during the 1980 Olympics Games, when dissidents were forced to leave Moscow,” the press freedom organisation said.
With just one week to go to the 2008 Olympics, the authorities have advised several dissidents and intellectuals living in Beijing to “take a trip” during the games or risk being placed under house arrest. Dissident Qi Zhiyong has been forced to leave the city with his daughter. His mobile phone has been confiscated and he will be kept under close surveillance during his “trip.” Qi nonetheless possesses a “hukou,” a permit to reside in Beijing.
Hong Qisheng is another dissident who has warned by the police but he has refused to leave Beijing. His wife said: “My husband received a call from the police, asking him to leave the city. I think it is because of the Olympic Games. The police asked us to return to our province of origin during the games but we said we would not go. The police then threatened to arrest my husband. Hong replied that the authorities could lock him up, but he would stay in Beijing.”
Zhang Zuxian, an intellectual, has received similar threats. He told a Radio Free Asia journalist: “We must stay, for freedom’s sake. It is illegal and costly to act like this. It is like throwing money out of the window. Some of my friends have already been arrested while others have been expelled from the capital. We are not wanted for any crime and we are not terrorists. The police are using archaic methods.”
Several human rights lawyers have been contacted by the Public Security Bureau and told to stay in regular contact with the police. At the same time, the police presence around their homes and places of work has been stepped up. Zeng Jinyan, the wife of imprisoned human rights activist Hu Jia, has been asked by the police who watch her night and day not to contact her friends or the media any more. The authorities have also advised her to take a trip during the games.
31.07 - Heightened surveillance in Tibet and Beijing, spying in hotels
Reporters Without Borders condemns the increase in police controls in China that is evident from the decisions and statements being made by officials. The all-out security policy is having a negative impact on the work of foreign and Chinese journalists.
The government is seeking “perfect and total security” in Tibet during the Olympic Games in order to prevent any “conspiracy.” All security personnel have been mobilised in Tibet and no leave will be given until the games are over. Security around important building and border controls have been stepped up. The authorities are also increasing cooperation with foreign police forces in order to “crush any separatist activities.” In Beijing, the controls around prominent places are much stricter. All access routes to Tiananmen Square, including underground ones, are now under surveillance.
A leading US Republican senator, Sam Brownback of Kansas, accused the Chinese government yesterday of planning to spy on Olympic Games visitors at the hotels where they stay. He released copies of documents he said were sent to hotels outlining government instructions for installing Internet spying software and hardware by the end of the month. “This means journalists, athletes’ families, human rights advocates and other visitors will be subjected to invasive intelligence gathering by the Chinese Public Security Bureau,” Brownback said.
31.07 - Berlusconi will not attend opening ceremony
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced yesterday that he will not attend the Olympic Games opening ceremony but gave the weather as his only reason: “I have been told that is very hot in Beijing, more than 50 degrees, and that there is a lot of humidity. I won’t go.” Italy will be represented by foreign minister Franco Frattini.
30.07 - Paris Greens to show support for China victims during Olympic Games
The Greens Group in the Paris city council announced yesterday that they will hang photos of the Dalai Lama and imprisoned activist Hu Jia on the balcony of the Paris city hall building during the Olympic Games in a show of support for the victims of repression in China and condemnation of President Sarkozy’s China policies. The Greens said they would give a news conference today before installing the photos, together with a Tibetan flag and a Reporters Without Borders flag showing the Olympic rings as handcuffs.
30.07 - China defends human rights record
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao has rejected the findings of an Amnesty International report on the human rights situation in China on the eve of the Beijing Olympic Games. “Anybody who knows about China will not agree on this report on the deterioration of the Chinese human rights situation,” Liu said today. “We hope [Amnesty] can take off the coloured glasses it has worn for many years to see China in an objective way.”
29.07 - Finnish filmmaker refused visa for China
Finnish documentary filmmaker Arto Halonen, who made critical film about a Tibetan Buddhist leader, the Karmapa Lama, has been refused a visa to visit China during the Olympic Games. The Chinese authorities obstructed Halonen when he was making the documentary, Karmapa - Two days of Divinity, which criticised the human rights situation in China and suggested that the Karmapa was the victim of political manipulation. “Apparently I broke the law,” he said. “My crime is to have defended human rights in Tibet and China. I submitted a visa request in June. My passport was returned soon afterwards. I called the embassy several times. No one wanted to tell me why my request was rejected.”
29.07 - Politicians and athletes defend human rights in China
German foreign minister Franz-Walter Steinmeier has appealed in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper to China to respect the rights of its minorities, while German athletes who have been selected for the Olympic Games showed their support for human rights on 26 July by wearing T-shirts with such slogans as “Justice during the Games,” “Sport in the service of human rights,” “Let’s celebrate humanity,” “Free Tibet” and “Free China.”
Czech Republic Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek meanwhile upset the Chinese government by wearing a lapel pin showing the Tibetan flag when he announced his boycott of the Olympic Games opening ceremony. A spokesman for the prime minister said: “The Chinese authorities voiced concern that Prague might have changed its policy and begun advocating Tibetan independence. We assured them that this was not the case.”
29.07 - Dissident’s release delayed until after games
Ye Guozhu, a dissident who was sentenced to four years in prison in 2004 on a charge of “picking a quarrel and stirring up trouble,” should have been freed on 26 July but the Chinese authorities have postponed his release until 1 October. Beijing intermediate people’s court No. 2 telephoned his family on 22 July to say they should not come to collect him because he had been transferred to another prison. The government is keeping Ye and many other dissidents in detention in order to head off any show of opposition during the Olympic Games.
28.07 - Chinese newspaper Xinjingbao (Beijing News) censored for picture dating back to 1989
Chinese authorities deleted an Internet link to an article that appeared on 17 July 2008 in the prominent Chinese newspaper Xinjingbao (Beijing News) of an interview with a US photographer of Hong Kong origin, Liu Xiangcheng, who worked in China during the 1980s.
They acted over a small photo showing men with bullet wounds following the 1989 military crackdown against the Tiananmen Square uprising. The newspaper thus broke the rules governing Chinese media which ban them from covering this taboo subject. The caption read simply "the wounded" and did not specify that it was related to the events of 1989. The Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao reported that the authorities also immediately demanded the removal of the newspaper from newsstands and censorship of the article online. The same source said that several staff on the paper, the editor and the journalist, were facing legal proceedings.
25.07 - Beijing police jostle Hong Kong journalists at Olympics tickets melee
Reporters Without Borders today condemned police behaviour towards journalists from Hong Kong covering chaotic scenes surrounding the sale of the last tickets for the Olympic Games.
Footage broadcast by Hong Kong Cable TV (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzX1cVPU8UU) show several journalists trying to take images being manhandled by police officers trying to control a crowd of around 50,000 people desperate to buy the final tickets.
One reporter from the South China Morning Post was arrested and accused by the authorities of injuring a police officer.
One police officer grabbed a reporter from Hong Kong Cable TV by the neck before throwing him to the ground. A crew from privately-owned Now TBV, including the journalist Zhou Yuexiang, was also manhandled. The police said that the TV crew, although accredited, had refused to leave the scene of the incidents as scores of police intervened to push back members of the press. A spokesman for Hong Kong Cable TV called the incident unacceptable.
“It is very disturbing for the safety of the thousands of foreign journalists who will be coming into the capital in the next few weeks”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “The authorities should bring those involved in these acts to heel and remind them that journalists must be able to work freely”, it added.
25.07 - Slovak president to attend Olympic Games opening ceremony
Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic will attend the Olympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing, spokesman Marek Trubac announced yesterday. Gasparovic and Prime Minister Robert Fico have repeatedly expressed their disagreement with a boycott. “Sport must unite, not divide,” Gasparovic has said.
25.07 - Missile installations visible near Olympic Stadium
Ground-to-air missile batteries and radar dishes have been installed near the Olympic Stadium in Beijing. Only part of the missile batteries have hidden under camouflage netting and passers-by and journalists can photograph the impressive military display. Nonetheless, strict surveillance is in force. Behind wire fencing, soldiers watch through enormous binoculars on supports, while signs announce “Military administrative zone, no admittance” and “Do not disturb the guards.” Liu Shaowu, the director of security for the Olympic Games, said the city’s population was initially astonished to see the anti-aircraft defence installations. But he insisted they were necessary to forestall any threat of terrorism and were “standard practice” at Olympic Games.
23.07 - Government sets aside three places for demonstrations
Liu Shaowu, the director of security for the Beijing Olympic Games, announced today that people will be allowed to demonstrate during the games in thee parks on the outskirts of the city - at Zizhuyuan in the northwest, Ritan in the east and Shijie in the southwest. But a request will have to be made at least five days in advance, specifying the nature of the demonstration and the number of participants expected. “All spontaneous demonstrations will be forbidden,” Liu said. “Permission to demonstrate will have to be requested in advance to ensure compliance with Chinese law.” Liu did not explain where applications should be submitted.
21.07 - Putin to attend Beijing Games opening ceremony
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov announced today that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will represent his country at the Olympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing on 8 August. “Mr. Putin will attend the opening ceremony and will meet the Chinese leaders,” he said. President Dmitri Medvedev will not go.
18.07 - China’s “progress” in press freedom hailed by International Olympic Committee
Reporters Without Borders condemns International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge’s comments on 16 July, when he said he was satisfied with the press freedom guarantees given by the Chinese government. “We obtained a new law on the media which is perhaps not perfect, but is a remarkable step forward for China. For the first time, foreign media will be able to report freely and publish their work freely in China. There will be no censorship on the Internet.”
Acknowledging that some have been calling for much more, Rogge said the IOC has been pushing and, if one was objective, one had to recognised that there has been progress. Rogge also insisted that China has made progress as regard child labour, compensation for those whose land has been taken, and the environment. French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to attend the Olympic Games opening ceremony was hailed a few days ago by Rogge as good for the games and good for the French team.
Repression has increased over the past six months. Twenty-four journalists have been arrested or given prison sentences since the start of the year. The Sichuan police have been holding leading dissident Huang Qi on a charge of “illegal possession of state secrets” since 10 June but are still seeking evidence to support the charge.
17.07 - Olympic security checks and prohibitions disrupt life for Beijing residents
The Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) has announced 26 new security measures for the games that are to be applied to all citizens. Alluding to a perceived threat of terrorist activity, the authorities say they reflect a desire for everyone to “act together to save the country in time of crisis.” Beijing residents, especially those going to the stadiums, are now forbidden to carry musical instruments, whistles, bottles, hard plastic objects and propaganda posters.
A Beijing resident told Radio Free Asia: “The smallest backpack is checked in the metro. You are not allowed to carry liquids, perfume or face creams, as the authorities fear that chemical products could be used as weapons. People’s everyday existence is being disrupted. All foreigners are being checked. Every individual is a potential enemy, a potential terrorist.”
The authorities have also installed police and military checkpoints around Beijing to control the access routes into the capital. Tens of thousands of drivers have been trapped in gigantic traffic jams.
16.07 - Security tightened in last month before Olympics
Security has become the priority for the Chinese authorities with one month left before the start of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The Political Bureau of the Communist Party Central Committee has unveiled a three-pronged defence plan using 440,000 people - 150,000 policemen and 290,000 volunteers - to carry out patrols and ID checks at airports and stations, on the main roads into Beijing and on the city’s streets in order to prevent any “terrorist” activity.
The authorities have for weeks being carrying out arrests and sentencing people suspected of terrorist activities, especially in Xinjiang and Tibet. On 11 July, 54 Tibetans who had participated in the March uprising were arrested and jailed. A court in Kashgar sentenced two Uyghurs to death on 12 July, while 15 others were given long prison sentences.
In Beijing, the Municipal Public Security Bureau has taken measures to rein in the euphoria of sports fans. Restaurants and bars around the Olympic Stadium have been closed, passers-by have been urged to stay away and hotel staff have been told to be suspicious of strangers. Jin Canrong, an international affairs expert at Renmin University said: “If the Games go without incident, that will be successful.”
16.07 - Canadian premier’s boycott of opening ceremony confirmed
A government official said on 14 July that Canadian foreign minister David Emerson will attend the Olympic Games opening ceremony in the place of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The announcement was seen as a diplomatic way of confirming that Harper is going ahead with his previously-announced boycott.
16.07 - Danish campaign says wear orange in Beijing in show of protest
The “Colour Orange” campaign (http://www.thecolororange.net/uk/page207) is appealing to politicians, athletes and spectators everywhere who are going to the Olympic Games to wear the colour orange at the sports events in Beijing in a show of protest against human rights violations in China. The Denmark-based group says that, since the Chinese authorities cannot ban wearing orange, this is way to attend the games and at the same time demonstrate against the Chinese government’s practices.
11.07 - China deports British woman for pro-Tibet activities
Dechen Pemba, a British woman of Tibetan descent, was deported from China on 8 July for “separatist” activities. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao denied that her expulsion had anything to do with the Olympic Games. He said Pemba was key member of the Tibetan Youth Congress, a “separatist” organisation, and had broken China’s laws.
11.07 - Petition condemns conditions in which Olympic brand products made
A total of 12,000 people signed a petition to the International Olympic Committee condemning the conditions in which workers produce merchandise with the five Olympic rings. The petition urges IOC president Jacques Rogge to take “urgent” measures to defend the rights of these workers. The issues that need addressing are “starvation wages, excessive overtime, violation of health and safety norms and repression in the workplaces where products with the Olympic brand are manufactured,” the petition says.
11.07 - CCTV to broadcast Olympic Games without time delay
China’s leading national broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV), announced yesterday that it will broadcast the Olympic games without a time delay. Jiang Heping, the controller of CCTV’s sports channel, CCTV-5, said “live” broadcasts usually go out with a 30-second delay but this will not be applied to the Beijing games. The Hong Kong-based newspaper Ming Pao reported a few days ago that the games would be broadcast with a 10-second delay. But this may concern only local Chinese stations.
10.07 - Biggest press centre in Olympic history opens in Beijing
BOCOG president Liu Qi inaugurated a “Main Press Centre” near the Olympic Stadium yesterday. With an area of 62,000 square metres, the MPC is the biggest building ever created for the press in the history of the games. It will hold up to 6,000 reporters and photographers accredited to cover the Beijing Olympics, who will be able to use it to prepare and send their reports and to attend news conferences. The MPC (http://fr.beijing2008.cn/bocog/organization/n214072188.shtml) will also inform journalists around the world of the step-by-step preparations in the run-up to the games.
10.07 - IOC urges China to keep promises to the media
Reporters Without Borders welcomes yesterday’s comments by Hein Verbruggen, the International Olympic Committee’s chief coordinator for the 2008 games. Speaking at yesterday’s inauguration of the Main Press Centre, he urged China to keep its promises to respect press freedom. “Preparation time is over,” Verbruggen said. “Now it is operation time, and that means we will have to deliver to all stakeholders - including the media, obviously - what was pledged.”
BOCOG spokesperson Sun Weide insisted however that all the pledges to the media have been kept. But human rights organisations say foreign reporters continue to have serious difficulties in getting access to “forbidden” sites.
10.07 - Former Chinese political prisoner deplores Sarkozy’s decision to attend
Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng has criticised French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plan to attend the Olympic Games opening ceremony. Speaking at the third World Forum on Human Rights in the French city of Nantes, Wei said: “I think that France will lose its authority in Europe with this position.” Wei spent 18 years in prison in China. He now lives in the United States where he continues to campaign for democracy in his homeland.
09.07 - Olympic Games to be broadcast to Chinese viewers with 10-second delay
The Chinese government seems determined to keep TV broadcasts under strict control during the Olympic Games in order to avoid any incident. According to the website of the Hong Kong-based newspaper Ming Pao, the authorities have told some Chinese TV stations that their broadcasts of the games will have to be transmitted with a 10-second delay. The reason given is the need to respect the image of foreign athletes. No protests during the sports events or medal awards will be broadcast. According to Ming Pao, the government wants to ensure that Chinese viewers do not see any incidents that might take place at Olympic venues.
07.07 - Who is going to the opening ceremony and who is staying away
The government representatives who have so far announced their acceptance of the Chinese president’s invitation to attend the Olympic Games opening ceremony are the king of Cambodia, the presidents of Afghanistan, Croatia, Mauritius, South Korea, Switzerland, the United States and Vietnam, the prime ministers of Australia, Finland, Japan, Netherlands and Thailand, the secretary of state for the presidency of the Italian council of ministers, the Spanish foreign minister, the Indian minister of sports and Belgium’s Crown Prince Philippe. The governments of Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, New Zealand and Poland have announced they will send no representative to the opening ceremony. Britain’s Prince Charles has said he will not be in Beijing during the games, while the prime minister will only attend the closing ceremony. The French president is expected to announce whether he is going in the next few days.
07.07 - Disappointing meeting between Dalai Lama representatives and Chinese government
After meeting with Chinese government officials in Beijing on 1 and 4 July, Dalai Lama representatives Kelsang Gyaltsen and Lodi Gyari voiced dissatisfaction with the talks on their return to India. “It was tough,” Lodi Gyari said. “Before the Olympics it is not feasible to hold talks... they are obsessed with the Olympics.” The Tibetan government in exile suspects that the Chinese government has resumed talks simply to improve China’s image in the run-up to the games. “After Olympics when we hold talks, we will know what the true attitude is,” Lodi Gyari added.
07.07 - Wife of imprisoned Mongol journalist calls for his release
Xinna, the wife of imprisoned Mongol journalist and human rights activist Hada, has called on the Chinese authorities to release him in the run-up to the Olympic Games in a gesture of respect for human rights. A member of the Mongol ethnic minority in the northern region of Inner Mongolia, Hada has been held for the past 13 years. He was sentenced in 1996 to 15 years in prison for spying, separatism and stealing secrets for the enemy. Xinna said his prison conditions were poor and his health had deteriorated.
04.07 - Chinese authorities call on the Dalai Lama’s representative to end demonstrations ahead of the Olympics.
A representative of the Dalai Lama yesterday met in Beijing with Du Qinglin, vice-president of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and at the request of the Chinese authorities promised in the Dalai Lama’s name not to disrupt Olympic events nor to plan or incite acts of violence that would offend against the Games and not to claim independence for Tibet during the period of the Games. Du Qinglin announced a resumption of talks with the Tibetan government in exile between now and the end of the year if the Dalai Lama adopted a “positive attitude”.
04.07 - Alliance of Hong Kong democrats call for campaign ahead of Olympics
The Hong Kong Alliance in support of Patriotic Democratic Movements has called on the leadership of the Chinese organising committee (BOCOG) as well as the mayor of Beijing to respect human rights, including free expression, and to tolerate dissident ideas ahead of the start of the Olympic Games. The group said it was not particularly convinced by the promises from the authorities. The Alliance has called a rally in Hong Kong on 7 July.
03.07 - European Greens launch human rights blog during Olympics
A blog linked to the campaign, “Olympic rights for human games”, has been launched by the Greens/European Free Alliance group in the European Parliament with the aim of exchanging information, discussion and helping promote human rights in China during the Olympic Games. (http://www.super-fi.eu/olympicrights/)
03.07 - Japanese premier Yasuo Fukuda to attend Olympic Games opening ceremony
Japanese officials confirmed yesterday that Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda will attend the Olympic Games opening ceremony on 8 August. He will formally announce his decision to Chinese President Hu Jintao next week.
03.07 - Athletes asked to show support for Tibet while in Beijing
Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) is launching an Athlete Wanted campaign with the aim of getting athletes participating in the Olympic Games to show their support for Tibetans. SFT is trying to raise money to pay for its appeal to athletes to be published as an advertisement in leading international newspapers.
02.08 - Olympic Games campaign flag joins European Union colours
Reporters Without Borders activists unfurled the organisation’s "Beijing 2008" campaign flag at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris on the night of 30 June as French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner inaugurated a special light display on the tower in the European Union’s colours of gold stars against a blue background to mark the start of France’s six-month EU presidency.
30.06 - Tibet opened to journalists as well as tourists
The Chinese government confirmed yesterday that foreign journalists, as well as tourists, are being allowed back into Tibet. No mention was made of journalists when a Tibetan Tourism Bureau official announced the previous day that the region was no longer off-limits.
30.06 - China told to improve respect for human rights
The Council of Europe has urged to China to improve its respect for human rights. With just six weeks to go to start of the Beijing Olympics, Chinese citizens are having to deal with an unprecedented level of Internet censorship, they cannot talk freely to journalists and are not free to practice the religion of their choice.
26.06 - Belgium: crown prince to attend opening ceremony
Crown Prince Philippe of Belgium has accepted the Belgian Olympic Committee’s invitation to represent Belgium at the Olympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing. The decision follows a lot of arguing within the country’s political class about the merits of a boycott of the opening ceremony.
26.06 - Uyghurs call for boycott of Beijing Olympics
Uyghur immigrants demonstrated yesterday in Tokyo in support of a boycott of the Olympic Games. Protesters brandished banners with such slogans as “No human rights, no Olympics.” The protest comes just a few days after the Olympic torch relay leg in the Chinese province of Xinjiang during which the Uyghur population was ordered to stay at home.
26.06 - Tibet reopened to foreign tourists
Tibet has been reopened to tourism after being off-limits for foreigners since protests erupted on 14 March 2008. “Tibet is open now to all travellers from home and abroad,” Tibetan Tourism Bureau spokesman Liao Lisheng said yesterday. Tibet earned 14 per cent of its income from tourism last year but after the protests and the ensuing three-month shut down, there is so far no sign of tourists clamouring to come back. Liao nonetheless insisted that the Olympic torch relay in Lhasa had showed that everything was fine in the region. “Tibet’s society is stable and harmonious, its markets bustling, and its environment beautiful,” he said. He did not say if journalists were being allowed back into Tibet.
26.06 - China cancels overseas legs of Paralympic torch relay
The Chinese government announced yesterday that it is cancelling all of the overseas legs of the Paralympic torch relay and restricting it to mainland China. The torch was to have been paraded through the summer and winter Olympic host cities of London, Vancouver and Sochi, as well as Hong Kong, before next September’s Paralympic Games in Beijing. BOCOG, the government committee organising the games, cited the Sichuan earthquake as the main reason for the decision.
23.06 - France: pro-Tibet banners on French Olympic Committee’s roof in Paris
Pro-Tibetan activists unfurled banners saying “Freedom for Tibet” and “China out of Tibet” on the roof of the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNOSF) on 20 June, on the eve of the one-day Tibetan leg of the Olympic torch relay. They called on the CNOSF to “demand that China respect human rights and cancel the Olympic torch relay in occupied Tibet.”
20.06 - Australian premier to attend inauguration of Olympic Games
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced yesterday that he will attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games at the personal invitation of the Chinese president. He said he was showing support for the Australian Olympic team, the biggest the country has ever sent to an Olympic event. Australia’s governor-general, Sir Michael Jeffery, will attend the closing ceremony.
19.06 - Tibetan leg of torch relay reduced from three days to one
The Tibetan leg of the Olympic torch relay, originally scheduled for 19-21 June, has been reduced to just one day, on 21 June in Lhasa, spokesperson Zhu Jing of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) announced today. Zhu refused to say whether the change was prompted by security concerns following last March’s uprising in the province and the ensuing crackdown. The authorities have reportedly being carrying out arrests in Tibet in order to prevent any protests on 21 June. “We will make proper arrangements for media coverage of the relay in Lhasa,” Zhu said. Lhasa has been off-limits for foreign journalists for the past three months and only 50 will be allowed to cover the relay leg there.
19.06 - Public told to keep away from Olympic torch relay through Kashgar
Most of the population of the Uyghur city of Kashgar, in the western province of Xinjiang, were told to stay at home while the Olympic torch was paraded through the city today. “We were not allowed to go on to the streets,” an Uyghur woman told a foreign journalist. People were ordered to watch the torch relay on TV at home while security was stepped up for the relay, with soldiers stationed every 30 metres along its route, and foreign journalists forbidden to talk to the local population. Reporters Without Borders deplores this violation of free expression.
18.06 - Austria to boycott Olympic opening ceremony
The Austrian government has announced that it is going to boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in protest against human violations in Tibet. The country’s sports minister said that, barring a significant improvement in the situation, he would not attend the inauguration although he would be in Beijing during the games.
18.06 - Heavy security measures of torch relay in Xinjiang
The Chinese authorities have adopted extraordinary security measures for the Olympic torch relay’s three-day leg in the western region of Xinjiang, which began yesterday in its capital, Urumqi. Xinjiang’s biggest ethnic group are Uyghurs, who for the most part are Turkic-speaking Muslims, and the authorities appear to fear separatist demonstrations or even terrorist actions during the relay. Thousands of arrests have reportedly been made and the public has been told to avoid contact with foreigners, including journalists. The government even told journalists they could watch the 12-kilometre relay through Urumqi from only one place.
17.06 - BBC says it would show protests during Beijing Games
The BBC, the only British broadcaster with the right to broadcast the Beijing Olympics, has said it will show political protests if they occur during the games. But Dave Gordon, head of major sports events for the BBC, told The Daily Telegraph it was not clear whether the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games would provide the feed of any protests. “They fudge the question,” he said. “They won’t commit to saying yes, they will cover it or no, they will not cover it. They put a lot of stress on the importance of covering the sport. I think we have to draw our own conclusions.” Gordon added that Beijing had become “more difficult” for broadcasters than the Moscow Games in 1980.
17.06 - Chinese instructions for visitors to games published in English
A set of instructions for foreigners visiting the games which the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games issued on 2 June were published in their entirety in English by Human Rights in China (http://www.hrichina.org/public/index) on 5 June. They include a ban on anyone with AIDS or anyone in possession of “forbidden documents.”
09.06 - Mountain-climber wears "Beijing 2008" T-shirt at Everest camp
A European mountain-climber recently wore the Reporters Without Borders "Beijing 2008" T-shirt at the Everest
base camp located on the Nepalese side at an altitude of 5,360 metres. The climber, who prefers not to be
identified, avoided controls by the Nepalese army, which - with help from Chinese officials - has reinforced
its presence around Everest to prevent pro-Tibetan activists entering the area.
05.06 - Police disrupt 1989 massacre vigil in Guiyang
Plans by several dozens dissidents including Chen Xi to stage a silent vigil in Citizen Rights Square in Guiyang (in the central province of Guizhou) yesterday to mark the 19th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square massacre were disrupted by a pre-emptive police operation. Some of the dissidents were prevented from leaving their homes. Others, such as Chen Defu, were taken to a police station. A handful, including Shen Younian, nonetheless managed to go ahead with the vigil in honour of the victims, which was filmed by uniformed and plain-clothes police.
04.06 - Organisers publish rules for foreigners in China during Olympics
A list of 57 instructions for foreigners in China during the Olympic Games were posted yesterday on the website of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG). They include a ban on any demonstration contrary to China’s political or cultural interests and a ban on any printed material, film or photos liable to upset the Chinese public’s “moral standards.”
30.05 - Hu Jia’s wife posts open letter to policemen watching her
The entry that Zeng Jinyan, the wife of imprisoned activist Hu Jia, today posted on her blog (http://zengjinyan.spaces.live.com) is an open letter to the policemen in charge of keeping her under surveillance. It describes how she and her family are hounded constantly and asks the police not to harass the neighbours, not to follow her any more, to allow her daughter to live a normal life, and not to prevent her family from visiting her. “The construction of a democratic state requires a permanent effort, including humanistic considerations and respect for basic freedoms,” the open letter says. It also condemns Hu’s transfer on 8 May to a prison in Tianjin, nearly 200 km from Beijing.
29.05 - Former newspaper editor prevented from going to Sweden to receive prize
Li Changqing, a former deputy news editor of the Fujian-based daily Fuzhou who was released in February on completing a three-year sentence, was prevented from travelling to Stockholm to receive the Gold Pen, a prize awarded by the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), because he has been stripped of his rights as a citizen. He asked his wife, Bao Dingling, to attend the ceremony in his place but she and her daughter had their passports taken from them at Beijing airport. WAN president Timothy Balding called this a “ scandalous new abuse of power by the Chinese authorities.”
29.05 - Dissidents detained before torch relay in Shanghai
Beginning on 19 May, around 20 dissidents were placed under house arrest in Shanghai for refusing to sign a register banning any demonstration during the Olympic torch relay in the city on 23-24 May. One, Shen Peilan, was attacked and beaten in the street by four individuals, who then took her to a police station, where she spent several hours. She tried to file a complaint but the police refused on the grounds that she had bore no visible marks of a beating. Another woman, Cai Wenjun, was arrested on 20 May and prevented from participating in relay-related activities. After being released, the dissidents reiterated their position about the Olympics. “We want human rights, not Olympic Games,” they said in a joint statement.
28.05 - Swiss president decides to attend opening ceremony of games
Swiss President Pascal Couchepin confirmed yesterday that he will be at the Olympic Games opening ceremony in August. After hesitating about the position to take after the rioting in Lhasa, he told journalists yesterday: “The International Olympic Committee and other sports federations have their headquarters in Switzerland so it is natural that the country’s president should attend the opening of the games.”
23.05 - Nanjing blogger gets 10 days in detention
Guo Quan, a blogger and former philosophy professor at Nanjing university, was arrested as he left his home in Nanjing on 18 May and was sentenced to 10 days in detention for posting "politically incorrect" articles on the Internet.
"We call on the authorities to stop intimidating this blogger, who has been under house arrest since February and who is just using his right to free expression," Reporters Without Borders said.
Guo recently announced his intention to sue Google for failing to notify him when it blocked any searches for his name on its Chinese-language search engine (http://www.google.cn) after he proposed creating a New People’s Party at the end of last year. He was fired from Nanjing university last November for posting frequent open letters on his blog urging the government to undertake democratic reforms.
20.05 - Olympic torch relay interrupted as mark of respect for victims of Sichuan earthquake
The Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) jointly decided to mark a pause in the Olympic torch relay across China from 19-21 May during the three-day mourning period decreed by the Beijing authorities in tribute to the victims of the Sichuan earthquake.
The earthquake registering at 8 on the Richter scale that struck the south-west of China on 12 May killed more than 40,000 people in Sichuan province, according to latest official estimates. The final toll is expected to go well above 50,000, since 32,000 are still reported missing and 236,000 more have been injured.
16.05 - Finnish TV reporter and cameraman arrested in Henan province
Two journalists working for Finnish public TV broadcaster YLE, reporter Pirkko Pöntinen and her cameraman, Mika Mattila, were arrested today in Henan province while preparing a feature report about a construction worker who had been employed on an Olympic building site in Beijing. The Finnish embassy had to intercede to get them released.
16.05 - writer and environmental activist arrested in Sichuan province
Essayist and environmental activist Chen Daojun was arrested on 9 May at his home in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, after taking part in a demonstration to call for a halt in the construction of a petrochemical complex 40 km outside the city and writing an article on the subject that was posted on 5 May on YiBao (ChinaEWeekly), on overseas Chinese website.
Chen was arrested by about 10 police, who ransacked his personal effects before taking him to a police station. He has been charged with “inciting subversion of state authority.” Chinese PEN, an independent writers’ organisation, described his arrest as a new show of government paranoia towards dissidents in the run-up to the Olympic Games.
07.05 - Chinese media look other way during Olympic torch flameout
The flame of the Olympic torch went out at the start of the Olympic torch relay run on 4 May in Sanya, the capital of the Chinese province of Hainan, the Associated Press reported. The flame extinguished as the first runner, Yang Yang, was setting off. The TV broadcasts did not report the incident, focusing on the crowd while the flame was relit.
07.05 - Uyghurs report mounting repression in Xinjiang in run-up to Olympics
Rebiya Kadeer, a leading member of the northwestern province of Xinjiang’s Uyghur community, yesterday accused the Chinese authorities to stepping up repression in the province ahead of the Olympic torch relay in Urumqi, the provincial capital. Another exiled Uyghur leader claimed that more than 10,000 people have been arrested in the past few days. Imprisoned from 1995 to 2001 and now an exile in the United States, Kadeer said the Chinese authorities were bringing charges of terrorism against members of the province’s Turkic population while at the same time using the Olympic Games to increase the pressure of acculturation.
07.05 - Hu Jia allowed family visit
Imprisoned activist Hu Jia was able to receive a visit from his elder sister, his mother and his wife, Zeng Jinyan, for half an hour on 4 May. They were given only a few hours warning that the visit was going to take place. He told them he was going to be transferred to another prison.
Hu is a Buddhist and a vegetarian, which means the only things he can eat in the prison are bread and groats. Despite the monotony of prison life and the infrequency with which he is allowed outdoors, Hu’s morale seemed better than during previous visits. When asked by his sister how he felt about his prison sentence, he replied that it was “inevitable.” Zeng told him about the support he is receiving from his friends and colleagues. She said he told her: “You must seek complete freedom in order to live with dignity.”
06.05 - Mother of the founder of the Chinese Democratic Party, Wang Bingzhang, calls for pardon for her son ahead of the Beijing Olympics
Wang Guifang, the mother of Wang Bingzhang, founder of the Chinese Democratic Party, sentenced to life imprisonment in 2002, has recently called on the Chinese authorities to reduce his sentence. In a letter sent from Canada to Chinese President Hu Jintao, on 1st May 2008, the 84-year-old woman complained of the harsh prison conditions suffered by her son, who is being held in solitary confinement in Guangzhou. He is suffering from several allergies because of his imprisonment and also from bouts of paralysis.
05.05 - Pro-Tibet march this Saturday in Paris
The Tibetan community in France is urging Parisians to take part in a march on Saturday, 10 May, to demand concrete advances regarding Tibet, including direct talks between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama, unrestricted access to Tibet for the foreign media and international investigators, the immediate release all prisoners and respect for free expression.
The march will start at 2:30 pm at Place Denfert-Rochereau and will end at the Peace Wall on the Champs de Mars. More information on www.tibetan.fr
30.04 - Hong Kong turns away four activists, including a Chinese writer and a Tibetan
In the past couple of days, four human rights activists have been prevented from entering Hong Kong, where the Olympic torch is due to arrive today. Those turned away included Zhang Yu, the general secretary of the Independent China Pen Centre, an writers association, two Canadians from Students for a Free Tibet, Tsering Lama and Kate Woznow, and Free Tibet Campaign press officer Matt Whitticase. They had been expected to give news conferences and meet with journalists to discuss the situation in Tibet.
Whitticase said: “2008 is the year that China is supposed to be opening up to the world in anticipation of the Olympics, but everywhere one looks, China is slamming the door.” The Hong Kong Journalists Association has condemned the decision to deny the activists entry.
29.04 - Danish sculptor denied entry to Hong Kong
Three members of a pro-Tibetan Danish group called “Colour Orange,” who had planned to take part in a demonstration during the Olympic torch relay in Hong Kong on 2 May, were denied entry on arrival yesterday and were put on a flight back to Europe. One of them was Danish sculptor and human rights activist Jens Galschiøt, the author of a sculpture at Hong Kong university entitled “Pillar of Shame” that marks the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Galschiot, who was to have painted the sculpture during the visit, said: “Hong Kong does not escape the control of Beijing [...] which does not want any criticism during the Olympic torch relay.”
29.04 - French town calls for respect for human rights in China
The municipal council of Notre Dame d’Oé, a town in the central French department of Indre-et-Loire, and its mayor, Jean-Luc Galliot, adopted a resolution on 8 April expressing their “desire for respect for human rights in China and Tibet.” Voicing support for activists and athletes and criticising the International Olympic Committee, the resolution urged the French government to send a “clear message to the Chinese authorities” and to consider not attending the opening ceremony. Reporters Without Borders welcomes this initiative.
28.04 - Journalist injured by Chinese demonstrators during Olympic torch relay in Seoul
Thousands of Chinese students clashed with the 8,300 South Korean policemen who were deployed for the Olympic torch relay in Seoul yesterday. Some threw bottles, piece of wood and soft drink cans at opponents of the Olympic Games and North Korean demonstrators.
The main altercation came shortly after the first relay runner left Seoul’s Olympic Stadium, which hosted the 1988 games. Chinese students attacked members of a group of about 150 South Korean demonstrators and North Korean refugees who were chanting “No human rights, no Olympic Games.” A photographer working for a South Korean newspaper had to be taken to hospital after a stone struck him on the head, the Korea Times reported.
South Korean deputy foreign minister Lee Yong-joon sent a message to the Chinese ambassador in Seoul, Ning Fukui, expressing the government’s “deep regret at the radical actions of certain young Chinese during the torch relay.”
25.04 - Call for sentence to be commuted for ailing Mongolian intellectual
After visiting Mongolian writer and publisher Hada in Chifeng prison in Inner Mongolia, his family have reiterated their concern about the appalling conditions in which he is being held. Aged 52, he has abdominal pains and is seriously ill with a condition that has not been properly diagnosed. His food ration was recently reduced, he is not allowed outside of his prison block and he has no reading material. Sentenced in 1995 to 15 years for “separatism and “spying,” he recently said he would like to file a new appeal against his sentence, but the authorities refused.
24.04 - Most media kept far from Olympic torch relay in Canberra
Reporters Without Borders condemns the restrictions imposed on the media for the Australian stage of the Olympic torch relay today in Canberra. The Australian organisers have repeatedly warned that only journalists from Channel 7 and Macquarie Radio, which bought the rights to broadcast the games, will be allowed inside the relay security cordon.
The Australian authorities have established extraordinary security measures, including the construction of a 16-kilometre “steel wall” of barriers and deployment of half the Canberra police force, hundreds of federal agents and an 18-vehicle escort. The route of the relay has already been changed 10 times and includes four alternative options.
The organisers of the Australian stage of the relay have acknowledged that it will cost about 2 million dollars, twice the sum originally envisaged. The presence of about 3,000 Chinese students and hundreds of supporters of the Tibetan cause is expected along the route.
22.04 - Hu Jia and Dalai Lama named honorary citizens of Paris
Reporters Without Borders hails yesterday’s decision by the Paris city council to make the Dalai Lama and imprisoned Chinese dissident Hu Jia honorary citizens of Paris. It was the city’s Socialist Party mayor Bertrand Delanoë who proposed bestowing the honorary title on the Tibetan spiritual leader. Opposition members of the council did not take part in the vote. The Chinese ambassador sent an aggressive letter to the head of each political group in the council in an attempt to dissuade them from voting for the mayor’s proposal. The award of the title was announced by the mayor’s office and was confirmed by the French embassy in China.
The Green Party group proposed bestowing the title on Hu Jia, a well-known activist on behalf of human rights, free expression, the environment and HIV/AIDS sufferers, who was sentenced on 3 April to three and a half years in prison for “inciting subversion of state authority.” Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for Hu’s release. An online petition for his release has just been posted by the Hong Kong Journalists Association: www.hkja.org.hk
Other people to have been declared honorary citizens of Paris in the past include Ingrid Bétancourt, a Colombian politician with French citizenship who is a hostage of the FARC guerillas, Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and African-American death row author Mumia Abu-Jamal.
22.04 - Mothers of Tiananmen issue pre-Olympic manifesto
In a manifesto issued on 17 April, the Mothers of Tiananmen group urge the Chinese government to respect the human rights commitments it gave when Beijing was awarded the 2008 Summer Olympics in 2001 and reiterate their call for recognition and reparation of the violence committed by the government when it crushed the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement in June 1989.
Entitled “One world, one dream, human rights for everyone” (a play on the official Beijing games slogan of “One world, one dream”), the manifesto anticipates the arrival of the Olympic torch relay on Chinese soil in Hong Kong on 2 May, which the authorities are billing as the apotheosis of the “march of harmony.”
22.04 - Beijing resident arrested for filming his eviction to make way for Olympic installation
Wang Lianming was arrested for trying to film his family’s eviction from their home in Yangshan, a neighbourhood in the Beijing district of Chaoyang, in an operation carried out by around 200 police and security guards in order to demolish houses and make way for Olympic Games installations, reports Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD). The police threw him to the ground, handcuffed him, seized his camera and threatened to detain him for up to 15 days. He was taken to a nearby police station and released a few hours later.
According to the organisation Civil Rights and Livelihood, Wang’s family was not notified that the Chaoyang district court had ordered their eviction. No compensation is offered for such expropriations, which therefore violate article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, signed by China. The CHRD has urged the Chinese to put a stop to the evictions being carried out in order to renovate Beijing for the Olympics.
21.04 - Vietnam vows “absolute security” for torch relay in Ho Chi Minh City
A Vietnamese government website reports that Prime Minister Nguyn Tan Dung yesterday called for “absolute security” during the Olympic torch relay in Ho Chi Minh City on 29 April and warned against the “hostile forces” that are always ready to disturb the peace.
“The security for the torch relay in Ho Chi Minh City must be absolute and we must not let any incident occur,” the prime minister reportedly said at a meeting with ministers and local officials. He added that the government wanted the relay to be a testimony to “love for sport” and “the special friendship between Vietnam and China.”
21.04 - French football team manager urges viewers to boycott Olympic TV broadcasts
In an interview in Le Monde on 19 April, French national football team manager Raymond Domenech urged French people who protest against human rights violations in China to boycott television coverage of the Beijing Olympics.
“The French say they do not want the Olympic Games because it is outrageous as regards human rights in China,” Domenech said. “I respond to people: if you are against the games in China, that don’t watch them and turn off your TV.” Domenech added that he would not watch the games.
In a response to Domenech on France Info on 18 April, France Télévisions director for sports Daniel Bilalian defended the Olympic Games as an opportunity for many amateur athletes to get media coverage.
18.04 - Famous Buddhist temple refuses to host start of Olympic relay in Japan
The Zenkoji Buddhist temple in the city of Nagano yesterday announced that it no longer wanted to be the starting point of the Olympic torch relay in Japan on 26 April. The monks said they were “very disturbed” by the “repression” of Tibetan religious leaders.
“We are Buddhists just like the Tibetans,” a monk told the Japanese news agency Jiji. The organisers of the Nagano stage of the relay said they would respect the temple’s wishes and change the departure point.
Citing “security” reasons, the authorities had already cancelled a concert in the Nagano Olympic stadium that was due to have ended the relay. At the same time, the three sponsors of the Japanese relay run decided not to have promotional vehicles on the route. They denied that the decision had anything to do with protests about Tibet.
18.04 - Chinese urged to “channel” nationalistic reactions to Western protests
In editorial distributed by the official New China news agency, the government has urged the Chinese public to rein in a growing anti-West campaign that was set off by the protests accompanying the Olympic torch relay in Europe and the United States.
Published only in Chinese, the editorial said “vile actions by some people in the West have provoked intense anger and strongly-felt patriotic fervour,” adding that “the patriotic fervour must be channelled in a rational manner and must transform itself into effective action.”
The government clearly wants to curb a wave of protests which it for a long while encouraged. Protests have been spreading on the Internet in the form of campaigns denigrating western media and calling for a boycott of French companies including the retail giant Carrefour.
18.04 - Czech premier to boycott opening ceremony
Czech prime minister Mirek Topolanek said on 16 April that he will not attend the Beijing Olympic Games opening ceremony for reasons of political ethics. He had previously spoken of a parallel between the Beijing Olympics and the 1936 Olympics in Berlin which became, he said, a showcase for the Nazi regime. Education and sports minister Ondrej Liska and Prague mayor Pavel Bem support Topolanek’s position. President Vaclav Klaus previously said be would not be attending the opening ceremony for health reasons.
18.04 - Belgian parliamentary resolutions irks Chinese ambassador
All of the groups in the Belgian parliament approved a resolution on the human rights situation in China in a parliamentary committee meeting on 16 April. Presented by parliamentarians Xavier Baeselen et Hilde Vautmans, the resolution urges the Belgian government to “envisage a common European position rejecting and criticising Chinese policy on human, social and environmental rights and not excluding, depending on the way the situation develops, a political boycott of the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.” The resolution also calls for dialogue with the Dalai Lama.
Deploring the resolution, China’s ambassador to Brussels, Zhang Qiyue, said China should be regarded as a “normal country” and added: “You are making a mistake. You don’t want China to open up.”
Responding to the ambassador’s criticism, Baeselen pointed out that the resolution did not ask for an end to bilateral relations or trade but just told the Belgian government what parliament expected from its relations with China. “Even if there has been some progress, there is still some way to go,” he said. Parliamentarian Bruno Tuybens, a former president of Amnesty International Belgium, added: “The violations have been going on for more than 30 years. I think the age of maturity has been reached.”
17.04 - China urged not to repatriate North Korean refugees
A report issued by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom on 15 April called on countries to press the Chinese government to stop repatriating North Korean refugees against their will. The report, entitled “Prison Without Bars,” said refugees were severely punished after being sent back to North Korea, especially those who confessed to religious beliefs. An estimated 300,000 North Korean refugees have fled to China, which regards them as economic migrants. Refugees quoted in the report said they had seen North Korean women being sold to syndicates in China and treated like slaves. The commission was set up by the US congress.
16.04 - Germany’s Olympic judo champion to boycott opening ceremony
Leading German athlete Yvonne Bönisch, the winner of a gold medal in judo in the 2004 Olympics, announced yesterday she will not attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing games in order to “make a statement” about human rights violations in China. Bönisch, who opposes a complete boycott of the games, said she intended to take part in the athletic events wearing a blue or green wristband with the words “Sports for Human Rights” that has been designed by the German delegation.
16.04 - Estonian president is not going to Beijing
Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said on 28 March that he will not attend either the opening or closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games, but he did not give the crisis in Tibet or the human rights situation in China as his reason for not going.
15.04 - Hu Jia prevented from seeing his lawyer to arrange appeal
Reporters Without Borders is shocked by the methods being used by the Chinese authorities to prevent imprisoned dissident Hu Jia from appealing against his sentence.
One of his lawyers, Li Fangping, was refused permission to see him yesterday, 10 days after the sentence was passed. The authorities said he was undergoing “a medical examination prior to entering prison.” Li was again refused permission to see him today on the grounds that the deadline for filing an appeal had already expired.
Li wanted to give him official documents related to his appeal which he urgently needs to sign. But the guards refused, without giving any reason. Hu has not been allowed to take any telephone calls and his family is very worried about his state of health.
15.04 - Human Rights Watch urges world leaders to condition attendance at games
In an open letter on 9 April, Human Rights Watch urged heads of state and government to condition their attendance at the opening or closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Beijing on specific steps by China to fulfill its human rights commitments, including those it made when awarded the games in 2001. In the past year, China has perpetrated abuses specifically as a result of its hosting the games, including imposing restrictions on media freedom and, since March, has responded disproportionately to protests in Tibet, the letter said.
Leaders should make their attendance conditional on China’s agreeing to an international investigation into events in Tibetan areas since mid-March, putting a stop to the arrests of dissidents and to violations of press freedom, and giving active support for a resolution of the conflict in Sudan, HRW said. Announcing its letter to world leaders, HRW Asia spokesperson Sophie Richardson said: “The onus will be on those who plan to attend to explain why they think it is appropriate to do so.”
Human rights violations linked to the games that have been documented by HRW in recent months have included turning a blind eye to abuses of migrants hired to build the Olympic sites and conducting sweeps to remove the poorest and most vulnerable groups from Beijing, the letter said.
14.04 - China attacks European and US critics
The Chinese foreign ministry criticised members of the European Parliament on 12 April for what it called gross interference in China’s internal affairs for declaring support for the “separatist position” of Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama. The parliament recently urged Beijing to negotiate with him and hinted at a boycott of the Games opening ceremony.
The Chinese media yesterday echoed criticism of the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, by China’s Olympics organising committee and the foreign ministry by calling her “the least popular person in China” for her pro-Tibet stance.
14.04 - Protest as Olympic torch passes through Buenos Aires
About 50 people, including pro-Tibet activists and supporters of the Falungong spiritual movement, demonstrated in central Buenos Aires on 11 April for human rights in China and Tibet as the Olympic Torch passed through the city.
Another group, waving the Chinese flag and singing the Chinese national anthem, jeered the protesters before police dispersed the crowd, allowing the torch to pass unhindered.
11.04 - All three US presidential contenders urge Bush to boycott
All of the three leading contenders for the US presidency have urged President George W. Bush not to go to Beijing for the Olympic Games opening ceremony on 8 August.
New York senator Hillary Clinton, one of the two contenders for the Democratic nomination, said on 7 April that the president should boycott the ceremony if there was no significant change of attitude from China on Tibet and Darfur. The US was wrong to minimise human rights in its China policies, she said.
After recently saying he was torn about the position the US should adopt, Illinois senator Barack Obama, the other Democratic contender, followed Clinton’s lead on 9 April and urged President Bush to boycott the opening ceremony if the Chinese did not take measures to help stop the genocide in Darfur and to respect the dignity, security and human rights of the Tibetan people.
Arizona senator John McCain, who is already assured of the Republic Party’s nomination, yesterday encouraged Bush to reconsider his decision to go, adding that, if he were president, he would not attend the opening ceremony in the absence of progress on dialogue with the Dalai Lama and an end to the brutal repression in Tibet.
11.04 - Tension between IOC and Chinese government
International Olympic Committee spokesperson Giselle Davies yesterday said relations between IOC president Jacques Rogge and the Chinese authorities continued to be good, and that sport and politics should remain separate. Her comments chimed with those made by Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu, who said: “I believe IOC officials support the Beijing Olympics and adherence to the Olympic charter of not bringing in any irrelevant political factors.”
But, alluding to the demonstrations of support for Tibet and freedoms in China during the torch relays in Paris, London and San Francisco, Rogge himself yesterday recognised that the Olympic movement was going through a “crisis” although he assured athletes that it would be overcome. He reminded the Chinese government of the promises it gave, when awarded these games, to “advance the social agenda of China, including human rights.” And he added: “We definitely ask China to respect this moral engagement.”
11.04 - Pro-democracy activist Zhu Yufu gets heavier sentence on appeal
An intermediate people’s court in the eastern city of Hangzhou imposed an additional sentence on 9 April on Zhu Yufu, one of the founders of the Chinese Democratic Party, who is serving a two-year prison sentence on a charge of disturbing the peace, although his real offence was posting articles on the Internet.
The court sentenced Zhu to an additional two years, four months and 26 days of deprivation of political rights after his release. It also increased the penalty imposed on Zhu’s son, Zhu Ang, for the same alleged offence from a suspended one-year prison sentence to a suspended 18-month prison sentence. These harsher sentences were handed down at a hearing held at the request of one of Zhu’s lawyers, Li Jianqiang, in the hope of getting a reduction in the sentences imposed in July 2007.
Zhu’s other lawyer, Mo Shaoping, said the court’s decision was “in complete disaccord with basic juridical principles and with the rules of the supreme court.” A local pro-democracy activist who attended the hearing said about 100 uniformed and plain-clothes policemen guarded the court in an extraordinary show of force.
10.04 - Gordon Brown won’t attend opening ceremony
A Downing Street spokesman has said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will not attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics but will attend the closing ceremony, as already agreed. “There is no change in position,” the spokesman said, reiterating the government’s opposition to any form of boycott. According to a poll released yesterday by Britain’s Channel Four television station, 40 per cent of the population would object to Brown’s presence at the opening ceremony.
09.04 - Petition organiser sentenced to two years of reeducation through work
Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the sentence of two years of reeducation through work that was passed about a week ago on Zheng Mingfang, a human rights activist and petition organiser who has been held incommunicado for more than a month. The organisation reiterates its condemnation of this kind of administrative punishment and calls for her immediate release.
Zheng was arrested in Beijing on 29 February, shortly before the annual session of parliament. It is believed she is currently being held at the Xian district centre in Tianjin, east of Beijing. She is beginning to lose her sight and it is thought she has been mistreated in detention.
Zheng’s family received unofficial notification of her sentence yesterday evening. A young man went to Zheng’s home and said he knew what had happened to her. He said she had sentenced to two years of reeducation through work and that “any attempt to use a lawyer would be pointless.”
Zheng’s husband, Huang Tiaoyuan, said his mobile phone and computer equipment were confiscated after her arrest and he was told not to communicate with foreigners. If he did not comply, Zheng would not be released, district police officials said. Her sister, Zheng Guifang, was also ordered to turn off her mobile phone and keep away from journalists.
Liu Feiyue, the head of a human rights monitoring organisation, said he believed Zheng’s release was linked to that of fellow activist Hu Jia.
09.04 - Sarkozy links participation in opening ceremony to dialogue between China and Tibet
French President Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday conditioned his government’s participation in the 8 August opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on a resumption of dialogue between China and Tibet.
"I will determine the conditions of our participation on the resumption of this dialogue, especially as I will be European Union president then", Sarkozy said, speaking the day after the Olympic torch relay in Paris.
Sarkozy said on 25 March that he did not rule out a boycott of the opening ceremony, adding that his decision would "depend on the response given by the Chinese authorities".
09.04 - Death threats against foreign journalists
Reporters Without Borders deplores the threatening email and phone messages which foreign news media based in China have been getting for the past two weeks. The reporters of the US television news network CNN are among those who have targeted most in what appears to be a wave of Chinese nationalism sparked by the events in Tibet.
The press freedom organisation also condemns the fact that the personal contact details of some journalists, including those working for leading US media such as the Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, have been posted on Chinese websites, above all a site specialising in military matters.
Dozens of journalists have received message like these ones : “The Chinese people don’t welcome you, American running dog. Your reports twist the facts and will suffer the curse of heaven” or ”One of these days, I’m going to kill you.”
The interior ministry refused to comment on the threats, while foreign ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said the government was not in a position to control the messages.
The Foreign Correspondents Club responded to the crisis by sending a security circular to all its members on 7 April. It advised them to contact their embassies, not give out their personal contact details, inform colleagues about their movements and to make a note of the most significant threats.
03.04 - White House opposes ban on Bush presence at opening ceremony
A bill introduced in the US House of Representatives on 1 April that would ban President George Bush from attending the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, was “not the best way” to respond to the situation in Tibet, a White House spokesperson, Katherine Starr, said yesterday. “We share concerns on Tibet and other issues, but efforts to prohibit US attendance at this international sporting event are not the best way to address them,” she said, pointing out that the US athletes participating in the games would “represent the best of this country.”
03.04 - German Olympic fencer to boycott opening
German Olympic silver medal holder Imke Duplitzer announced on 1 April that she will not take part in the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, distancing herself from the position of the German delegation, which has come out against a boycott of the inauguration. Duplitzer, who won her medal in fencing in 2004, deplored the absence of a lobby representing athletes within sports federations and the International Olympic Committee. She also criticised the IOC’s passivity in the face of the manipulation of the Olympics by “a political system’s publicity.”
03.04 - Opening ceremony boycott being considered by Norway
The Norwegian minister in charge of sports, Trond Giske, today said he did not rule a boycott of the opening ceremony. “I’m wondering if we should have political representation there,” Giske said. “Not attending would send a clear signal, and the threat from several countries of not going could force the Chinese authorities to act.” He added that the Chinese authorities “want the games to succeed and they can achieve that goal if they listen closely to the message the international community is giving them.”
03.04 - IOC asks China not to restrict Internet access during games
The International Olympic Committee asked the Chinese authorities on 1 April to guarantee unrestricted Internet access for journalists covering the Olympic Games. Referring to the strong criticism of China for its crackdown on protests in Tibet in mid-March, IOC coordinating commission vice-president Kevin Gosper said any blocking of access to websites “would reflect very poorly” on the Chinese government. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu defended China’s Internet management policies and did not confirm that Internet controls would be lifted for journalists.
The Chinese authorities have however promised to broadcast the games without any time delay. The Olympic torch-lighting ceremony in Greece on 24 March was broadcast with a delay by the Chinese media. This enabled them to censor the images showing three Reporters Without Borders representatives staging a protest against the human rights situation in China.
02.04 - Sports magazine shows French athletes supporting Chinese dissidents
The 29 March issue of the leading French sports magazine L’Equipe has a special report on the Olympic Games in which 12 French athletes are shown holding the photos of Chinese dissidents. Under the headline “We are not indifferent,” the sightless runner Aladji Ba is seen with a photo of sightless Chinese lawyer Chen Guangcheng. A photo of activist Hu Jia is held high by race walker Yohann Diniz. The head of the French athletes union, Romain Mesnil, has a photo of Hu Jia’s wife, the blogger Zeng Jinyan.
02.04 - US congressmen try to stop Bush from attending opening ceremony
Thaddeus McCotter, a Republican member of the US House of Representatives, submitted a bill yesterday aimed at preventing President Bush from attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. The bill would “prohibit federal government officials and employees” from attending the inauguration on the grounds that China is “brutalizing protesters in Tibet.” Separately, 15 Republican and Democratic congressmen wrote to Bush urging him to “renounce your decision to attend the Olympics in China and urge the Chinese government to change its policies and begin to respect international standards of human rights.”
01.04 - Call for action on human rights from runner who will receive Olympic flame in Paris
Stéphane Diagana, the French athlete chosen to receive the Olympic flame when it arrives in France, has said that the human rights situation in China deserves “concerted action by all countries” and that the International Olympic Committee should face up to the contradictions stemming from the choice of China to host this year’s Olympics.
“What could be done is not against China but for human rights,” he said. “The right of interference is a duty as a human being. It is a philosophical position, not a political one. I think that people can express themselves without preventing the flame from going to Beijing. But a message is needed because China has to be reminded that its promises have not been kept.”
01.04 - Indian football star refuses to carry Olympic torch
Bhaichung Bhutia, the captain of India’s national football team and a sympathiser of the Tibetan cause, wrote to the Indian Olympic Committee yesterday saying that “for personal reasons” he would have to refuse an invitation to be one of the sportsmen who carry the Olympic torch when it passes through New Delhi on 17 April.
01.04 - Nancy Pelosi says Bush should consider opening ceremony boycott
US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday urged President Bush not to rule out a boycott of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. “The president might want to rethink this later, depending on what other heads of state do,” said Pelosi, a Democratic Party member, who recently visited the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. Her position contrasts with that of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who said on 28 March that she opposed a boycott of the games as it would hurt the Chinese people.
01.04 - Film festival awards prize to documentary about China
The jury of the International Festival of News Reporting and Social Documentary (FIGRA), headed by French journalist Daniel Leconte, awarded the Olivier Quemener - Reporters Without Borders prize on 29 March to Marie Stéphane, Jean Lapierre and Jean Eifer for “Colère de Chine” (China’s Anger), a documentary in which environmental activists and the victims of expropriation are interviewed about the impact of unbridled capitalism in China.
31.03 - China talks of “cold war” after EU foreign ministers meeting
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Jiang Yu yesterday criticised the position taken by the European Union’s 27 foreign ministers at a meeting in Slovenia on 28 March, when they called for an end to violence in Tibet and for talks between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama, but did not mention the Beijing Olympic Games.
Jiang said it was “unjustified” to portray China as the aggressor of the Tibetan people. This hostility towards China was worthy of the cold war era and ignored China’s stability, development and prosperity, he said. It was an attempt to discredit China that just revealed ignorance and arrogance, he added.
The official news agency Xinhua has meanwhile accused European parliament president Hans Pöttering of making “extremely irresponsible” statements about the possibility of a boycott of the Olympic Games.
28.03 - Polish premier will not attend opening ceremony
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk yesterday told the Polish daily Dziennik Polska-Europa-Swiat that he plans to stay away from the 8 August opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games because of the situation in Tibet. “Poland is a medium-sized country and does not seek to be the first, but my opinion is very clear - I think the presence of politicians at the inauguration of these games is inappropriate.”
28.03 - Czech leaders split over position on Olympic Games
Czech Republic President Václav Klaus said on 26 March that he would not attend the Beijing Summer Olympics, according to the Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes. But his decision is said to be for reasons of health rather that the repression in Tibet. “I do not envisage attending the Olympics in China or scolding China,” Klaus has written on his personal website, www.klaus.cz. He added however: “Those who decided to assign the games to China cannot be surprised now that China is how it is.”
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has meanwhile said that a decision on his possible presence at the opening ceremony would be taken in a cabinet meeting. “I am not in the habit of making gratuitous gestures and I will not make one in connection with the Olympic Games,” he said.
27.03 - European parliament Greens wear Reporters Without Borders colours
All of the members of the Green group in the European parliament wore the Beijing 2008 campaign T-shirt with Olympic handcuffs during yesterday’s plenary session. The Green group’s joint president, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, gave a speech calling for politicians to get in involved in the debate on human rights in China, including Tibet.
Photo European parliament
27.03: Pro-Tibet petition now aims for 2 million signatures
The online petition (http://www.avaaz.org/en/tibet_end_the_violence/)
launched by Avaaz on 18 March has already gathered more than 1 million signatures and the organisers are now hoping to reach 2 million by 31 March, when boxes containing the signed petitions will be placed at the entrance to Chinese embassies around the world. The petition urges President Hu Jintao to show restraint and respect for human rights in Tibet and to open dialogue with the Dalai Lama.
27.03 - 15 French athletes ask China to keep its promises on human rights
Fifteen French athletes including sprinters Christine Arron and Muriel Hurtis signed a joint appeal in the Paris-based Nouvel Observateur newspaper today saying “there is a path between silence and a boycott of the Olympic Games” and urging Chinese President Hu Jintao to keep the promises made by China to respect freedom of expression and human rights.
“To win these Olympic Games for Beijing, the Chinese government undertook to respect human rights,” the appeal says. “Today, the violent crackdown on the rioting in Tibet has raised serious doubts about this pledge to the Olympic movement (...) The most basic rights are not being respected - neither physical integrity nor freedom of expression is possible in China.”
Urging other athletes and Internet users to support their appeal, the French athletes add: “We cannot be the hostages of politics or support for an authoritarian regime. For this reason, Mr. President, we solemnly ask you today to keep your word. Do not spoil the games.”
Read the French athletes’ appeal.
21.03 - Berlin and Paris say let foreign journalists back into Tibet
German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier today called for more transparency from the Chinese government about the situation in Tibet. “China is only hurting itself by preventing foreign observers from seeing what is going on,” Steinmeier said. The French foreign ministry today also called for the foreign media to be allowed to go to Tibet. Journalists have been unwelcome there since the start of the protests on 10 March.
20.03 - Online petition in support of Tibetan people
An online petition launched by Avaaz in support of the Tibetan people and the Dalai Lama has been signed by more than 330,000 people in 48 hours. The petition will be sent to Chinese President Hu Jintao as soon as the number of signatories reaches 1 million.
19.03 - Former French presidential candidate backs “political boycott” call
Former French presidential candidate Corinne Lepage of the CAP 21 party yesterday said she supported a “political boycott” of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, along the lines proposed by Reporters Without Borders. “CAP 21 hopes that France, the country of human rights, will urge the international community and the European Union to press for an end to the cultural genocide to which the Tibetan population is subjected,” Lepage said.
19.03 - French foreign minister thinks opening ceremony boycott would be unrealistic
French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner has described Reporters Without Borders’ call for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony as “pertinent” but “unrealistic.” He said it was “less negative that a complete boycott of the games” and at one point he did not rule out the possibility of the EU agreeing to the proposal, but he also said it would be “hard to put into effect.” Calling for “reflection about what is most effective,” Kouchner said: “It is so easy to brandish a threat when one is not going to carry it out.”
19.03 - European parliament president suggests boycott by politicians
European parliament president Hans-Gert Pöttering yesterday urged politicians to reconsider their participation in the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. “We cannot agree with what is happening in Tibet, the Chinese must realise that,” Pöttering said, adding, “We must send a signal to Beijing.”
19.03 - Britain urges China not to ruin its image ahead of Olympics
On 17 March, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged China to show restraint in Tibet and to take greater care with its international image. British foreign office minister Mark Malloch-Brown, a former UN deputy secretary-general, also warned China to be careful not to ruin its image ahead of the Olympics. “This is China’s coming out party, and they should take great care to do nothing that will wreck that,” he said.
19.03 - Olympic committees oppose boycott but IOC urged to take position
European Olympic Committees president Pat Hickey, European commissioner for sport Jan Figel and the presidents of the British, Australian and Austrian Olympic committees said on 17 March that a boycott of the Olympic Games would not be an effective way of putting pressure on the Chinese. French sports minister Bernard Laporte was of the same view. “A boycott would just hurt the athletes,” he said.
But Swiss Olympic Committee president Joerg Schild urged the International Olympic Committee to take a position on the recent events in Tibet. While opposing a boycott as something that “would affect the athletes and Chinese population,” Schild said on 17 March he though IOC silence on the issue was inconceivable. “The credibility of the Olympic movement will be at stake” if it does not remind China of its human rights undertakings, he said.
14.03 - Growing unrest in Lhasa
The Tibetan capital of Lhasa has been shaken by anti-Chinese demonstrations and rioting since 10 March, the anniversary of an abortive 1959 uprising and the Dalai Lama’s escape. The protests, which follow the arrests of Buddhist monks in December 2007 and growing tension between the Chinese government and Tibetan people as the Beijing Summer Olympics approach, are of a scale unseen since 1989.
The deployment of hundreds of soldiers and public security agents in response to the uprising by monks has contributed to an escalation in the violence. Tourists told AFP that the security forces have sealed off Lhasa. Three large monasteries in the old town have been closed. Shops and restaurants in the city centre are also shut. Monks at Sera have gone on strike in a show of support.
Comments by foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang playing down the unrest were quoted today by the government news agency Xinhua, which referred to “serious disturbances” including the torching of military vehicles and clashes in which two people were believed to have died and hundreds were wounded. There has also been rioting in Xiahe, in the northwestern province of Gansu, which has a sizable Tibetan population. Hundreds of civilians, led by Buddhist monks were involved. They were dispersed by anti-riot units without use of violence.
Tibetan outside of China have also been expressing their discontent. A march by Tibetan exiles began in Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan government in exile in northern India, on 10 March, but was cut short by the local authorities.
14.03 - HRW accuses China of abusing migrant construction workers in Beijing
Human Rights Watch issued a report (www.hrw.org/reports/2008/china0308/) on 12 March condemning the way the Chinese authorities treat the estimated 1 million construction workers from other parts of China who make up 90 per cent of the workforce that is building the “New Beijing.”
“If the Chinese government really wants to protect the migrant workers’ rights, it should start by scrapping the hukou system,” said HRW’s Asia spokesperson, Sophie Richardson, referring to the household registration system that severely limits the ability of Chinese citizens to claim their rights when they are away from their official place of residence.
The International Olympic Committee undertook to monitor conditions for construction workers at Olympic sites, especially after the Chinese authorities acknowledged in January that there had been six deaths.
14.03 - Hong-Kong cardinal says Beijing games are good for human rights
Hong-Kong cardinal Joseph Zen, who is in Rome for a meeting of Chinese bishops at the Vatican, yesterday said the Olympic Games offered “a good opportunity for China to show that it has improved its respect for human rights” and that he would like to see China become “one of the top nations that truly defend human rights and work for peace.”
13.03 - No unauthorised demos, says Beijing official with eye on Olympics
At a news conference on 12 March, Beijing deputy mayor Liu Jingmin made it clear the authorities intend to keep attempts to stage demonstrations during the summer Olympics under close control. Anyone wanting to hold a demonstration will have to apply to the city police for permission, and the police will decide to approve it or not in line with laws, Liu said.
In practice, the police almost never give permission for street demonstrations, especially if the government is targeted. Liu’s warning comes amid signs that many local and foreign groups plan to take advantage of the media spotlight on the Olympics to draw attention to the problems of human rights and press freedom in China, and the situation in Tibet.
13.03 - Authorities step up harassment of people trying to petition parliament, report says
China Human Rights Defenders issued a report on 11 March claiming that harassment and arrests of the thousands of Chinese who travel to Beijing each year to petition parliament has become more systematic and extensive. The harassment includes kidnapping and incarceration in secret detentions centres, the report said. “The Chinese government wants to erase the image of people protesting in front of government buildings, as it would ruin the meticulously cultivated impression of a contented, modern, prosperous China welcoming the world to the Olympics this summer,” it added. The public security ministry spokesman did not comment on the allegations.
13.03 - George Clooney puts pressure on Olympic sponsor Omega
American actor and director George Clooney, who advertises Omega watches, said on 11 March that he has talked regularly with the Swiss company, an Olympic sponsor, about China’s role in the Darfur crisis in Sudan. Clooney also said he had and would continue to “ask China to use its considerable leverage with the government of Sudan.”
13.03 - Tibetan exiles continue march through northern India to Tibetan border
Around 100 Tibetan exiles are continuing their protest march through northern India to the Tibetan border despite being served an official restraining order by the police on the second day of the march. “We will continue on our homeland march despite the order that has been served on us,” said B. Tsering, head of the Tibetan Women’s Association, one of five organisations sponsoring the march. The march began in Dharamsala on 10 March, the 49th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s escape from Tibet after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. “In Tibet, repression continues to increase with numerous unimaginable and gross violations of human rights, denial of religious freedom and politicization of religious issues,” the Dalai Lama said in Dharamsala on 10 March.
13.03 - Tibetans stage their own Olympic torch-lighting at Olympia
Tibetan activists lit their own Olympic torch on 10 March in Olympia, in Greece, starting a torch relay through 50 cities that will end at the border of Tibet on the day the Olympic Games start in Beijing. This is “a torch for freedom, a symbol of the Tibetan people’s resistance against the Chinese government,” Tendon Dahortsang of the Tibetan Youth Association in Europe said. Their torch was lit outside the gates to the ancient Olympic site because the Greek police prevented them from entering. Their protest was watched by Chinese officials. The official Olympic torch-lighting ceremony will be held in Olympia on 24 March.
12.03 - Monks arrested in Lhasa protests, while exiles in India start long march
Two demonstrations of a scale unseen since 1989 were staged by Buddhist monks in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa on 10 March, the anniversary of an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. About 300 monks gathered at Drepung monastery in support of colleagues who have been imprisoned since the US congress awarded a gold medal to the Dalai Lama last October. They were firmly dispersed by the police. Around 10 monks also gathered outside a temple in Lhasa and chanted slogans critical of the Chinese authorities. As well as making about 70 arrests, the police reinforced their presence around the city. Local officials refused to comment on the events.
Hundreds of Tibetan exiles in India set off the same day from the northern city of Dharamsala on a five-month march on foot to the Tibetan border, where they plan to arrive just before the start of the Beijing Olympic Games in August. The Dalai Lama meanwhile denied Chinese President Hu Jintao’s accusation that he is trying to "sabotage" the games. The spiritual leader of the Tibetans said China had a right to hold the games and he did not dispute it.
06.03 - Dutch Olympic champion urges IOC to take position on human rights in China
Dutch swimmer Peter van den Hoogenband, the reigning Olympic 100-metre freestyle champion, yesterday said he would like the International Olympic Committee to publicly call for an improvement in human rights in China in order to take the media pressure off the athletes taking part. A statement by IOC president Jacques Rogge would allow athletes to concentrate on training for the games and prevent sport being eclipsed by human rights issues, he said.
04.03 - Families of Yang Chunlin, Wang Guilin and Yu Changwu banned from talking to international media
The family of Yang Chunlin, who started the campaign “We want human rights, not the Olympic Games”, were summoned by police in Jiamusi, north-eastern China on 2 March, who told them they were banned from contacting foreigners. Radio Free Asia reported that the family is still waiting for news about the outcome of the dissident’s trial, which opened on 19 February and has had no media coverage in China.
Yang Chunlin’s sister, Yang Chunping, recently said in an interview with British Sky television that the trial was painfully slow and the family was subjected to harassment. Since the Sky interview, the wives of Wang Guilin and Yu Changwu, activists jailed for taking part in the same human rights campaign, have also come under pressure from the authorities. “Their mobile phones have been cut off and they do not dare give interviews”, Yang Chunping said. “The authorities do resort to intimidation but I don’t think they would go so far as to carry out their threats of violence or imprisonment. That would be against their interests”, Yang Chunlin’s lawyer, Li Fangping said.
03.03 - Members of US Congress criticise growing repression in run-up to Olympics
Republicans and Democrats within the Congressional committee on China, established in 2000 to monitor respect for civil liberties, condemned a growing crackdown by Chinese authorities ahead of the Beijing Olympics when they met on 26 February, citing the case of the imprisonment of Hu Jia. The US parliamentarians urged “the Chinese government to keep its word on fundamental freedoms and environmental problems.”
03.03 - Chinese foreign minister denies alleged crackdown on freedoms ahead of Olympics
British foreign minister, David Miliband, on an official six-day visit to China, met his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, on 28 February. Following the meeting the Chinese official rejected as “unfounded” criticism of the Chinese authorities by the international community in relation to individual freedoms. The minister refused to discuss a possible boycott threat against the Beijing Olympics.
03.03 - Mothers of Tiananmen under surveillance during two political sessions
An open letter released by leaders of the Mothers of Tiananmen, Zhang Xianling and Ding Zilin, on 28 February, was not put before the People’s Assembly and the Consultative Assembly, news website Boxun reported. Zhang Xianling, who drew up the petition calling for an investigation and apology for the 1989 massacre, was placed under house arrest on 1st March. The authorities said that this “special regime will be maintained until 18 March”, the date on which the annual sessions of the two Assemblies are due to finish.
29.02 - IOC president says games will bring positive change
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge yesterday said the IOC was working on “ bringing to China all the values of the Olympic Games.” It might not be immediate, but the games would have “a positive influence” on China, he said.
29.02 - French ministers optimistic about impact of games on human rights
In an opinion piece in yesterday’s Le Figaro, the French ministers for human rights and sports, Rama Yade and Bernard Laporte, opposed a boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games, saying it would not achieve anything concrete. “The Olympic Games offer a unique chance, a springboard for the rule of law and basic freedoms to take deeper hold in China,” they wrote. The progress desired by France includes an improvement in freedom of expression and civil rights, and ratification by China of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
29.02 - Bush to attend games, but will raise human rights with Chinese counterpart
US President George Bush yesterday he was going to attend the Beijing Olympics “because it’s a sporting event and I’m looking forward to seeing the athletic competition,” but he said he would raise human rights issues in private with his Chinese counterpart.
29.02 - German Olympic chief thinks Beijing games will improve human rights
German Olympic committee president Thomas Bach said after a meeting with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that he expected that the holding of the Olympic Games in Beijing would result in an irreversible improvement in the human rights situation in China. The Olympic movement would achieve what generations of US secretary-generals and presidents have failed to do, he said. The German government’s human rights commissioner meanwhile said briefing athletes about human rights did not mean they were qualified to take a position on the subject. That was the job of governments, he added.
29.02 - Rice raises free expression and religious freedom with Chinese leaders
When US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice met with President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao in Beijing on 27 February, she reportedly raised human rights issues and voiced concern about the situation of political prisoners Hu Jia and Shi Tao. The next day, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao insisted that Hu Jia was being detained legally. “Relevant groups and individuals shall be well aware that China is a country ruled by law and stop making irresponsible remarks,” he said.
29.02 - Human rights petition activist arrested in Beijing
Wang Guilan was arrested yesterday in connection with a human rights petition with more than 12,000 signatures. Chinese Human Rights Defenders said she was arrested in Beijing by public security officials from her province, Hubei. Other signatories cancelled a news conference planned for yesterday because they feared they would also be arrested.
The petition urges the Chinese authorities to keep the promises made in 2001 - when the 2008 games were assigned to Beijing - to improve respect for human rights. “The Olympic
Games are supposed to be run according to civilised rules and with civilised people taking part,” the petition says. “Since we are citizens of the organising country, we hope to enjoy human rights like any civilised nation.”
28.02 - “Mothers of Tiananmen” launch pre-Olympics appeal
Human Rights in China today released an open letter from the “Mothers of Tiananmen”, a group of families of the victims of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, which was sent to the Chinese authorities in the run-up to the Olympic Games. It urged the government to reconsider the often repeated demands of the families to open an investigation and to think about apologising and providing compensation. ”Can it be possible that the government is comfortable allowing athletes from the world over to tread the ground stained in blood and to take part in the Olympic Games,” it read.
28.02 - Nobel prize winner Gao Xingjian thinks the Olympics will not change China
Nobel prize winner for literature Gao Xingjian, said yesterday that he did not believe the Olympic Games would prove a vehicle for change in a country in flux like China. The French-exiled writer said, “China [...] already has enough problems to resolve". Personal stances and campaigns organised against the games will have a limited effect, much the same as “individual protests”, powerless when up against “government affairs”.
28.02 - Millions of peasant farmers threatened by plans to divert water
In an interview for the Financial Times yesterday, An Qiyuan, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee for Shaanxi province and former Communist Party chief of Shaanxi, warned the central government that overuse of the country’s water resources could cause a social and environmental disaster. And called on the government to compensate the provinces that have been told to pump their best water to the capital in order to ensure supplies during the Olympic Games. It is rare for a senior Chinese office to criticise government policy so openly in a foreign newspaper.
The government has embarked on an ambitious 60-billion-dollar project to channel water from wetter southern provinces to the arid north. Part of scheme is supposed to be ready in August and will be used to supply the capital during the games. Most of the project, which has been criticised as short-sighted and because it will deprive Hubei and Shaanxi of needed water, is to be completed by 2010.
28.02 - Anti-death penalty coalition calls for “concrete steps” before Olympics
The World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, which unites around 60 international NGOs and many civil society actors around the call for the universal abolition of capital punishment, yesterday sent an open letter to the Chinese National People’s Congress calling for “concrete measures” to put a stop to executions before this summer’s Beijing Olympics.
Alluding to the values enshrined in the Olympic Charter, the coalition urged China to accelerate reforms and establish a moratorium on executions. The Chinese authorities no longer publish figures on death sentences and executions but estimates of the number of people executed every year range from 5,000 to 12,000, which - as the letter says - gives China the “world record of executions”.
The coalition, which participates in the 2008 China Olympics Collective (pekin2008.rsfblog.org), has posted a petition online (www.worldcoalition.org).
28.02 - Dialogue with US on human rights to resume
Foreign ministry spokesman Yang Jiechi said China will resume a dialogue with the United States on human rights following a meeting with US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice in Beijing on 26 February. China suspended talks on human rights in 2004 after the Bush administration submitted a resolution to the UN Human Rights Commission condemning human rights violations in China.
28.02 - Foreign ministry says games should not be “politicised”
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a news conference on 26 February that this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing “should not be politicised”. Liu’s comment came a day after the “88 Generation Students,” a Burmese opposition group, called for boycott of the games in protest against China’s support for Burma’s military government. “Political excuses should not be used to meddle in it”, Liu said.
28.02 - Samaranch says China “more open” than Russia in 1980
Former International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch said in an interview for the Spanish sports daily Marca on 26 February that “it was riskier to hold the Olympics Games in Moscow in 1980” than to hold them in Beijing this year. “The Chinese regime is more open than what you had in the Soviet Union at that time”, he said. “China has opened up and has change a great deal. It has an exchange market, millionaires ... a bit of everything”.
Asked about the issue of human rights in China and US filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s decision to withdraw his help for the opening ceremony in Beijing because of China’s policy on Sudan and the Darfur crisis, Samaranch said “if one talks about human rights and what happens in China, that happens in a lot of other countries as well”.
27.02 - AIDS activist’s website closed
Aibowiki, a website created in July 2007 by HIV/AIDS activist Chang Kun, has not been accessible since 20 February. Access to the site, which deals mainly with discrimination against people with HIV and AIDS, was blocked two days after Chang posted an entry about his father, a peasant farmer in Fuyang, in the province of Anhui, and his attempt to resist the expropriation of his land.
Aibowiki joins the long list of HIV/AIDS news websites and forums, such as Ai Zhi Fang Zhou (www.chain.net.cn/forum) and Gan Dan Xiang Zhao, to be closed by the authorities. According to the latest health ministry figures, 700,000 people have AIDS or are seropositive in China. The 2007 figure for AIDS sufferers was a 45 per cent increase on the figure for 2006. The number of seropositives rose 24 per cent.
25.02 - Burmese opposition group calls for boycott of Beijing Olympics
The “88 Generation Students,” one of Burma’s leading opposition groups, today called on people throughout the world to boycott television coverage of the Beijing Olympics in protest against China’s support for Burma’s military government. The group also called for a boycott of Olympic Games merchandise and the corporations sponsoring the games, until they are over.
22.02 - Olympic Games critic mistreated during trial
Yang Chunlin, one of the advocates of the “We want human rights not Olympic Games” campaign, was himself the victim of serious rights violations at the opening of his trial on 19 February in Jiamusi, in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang.
Chinese Human Rights Defenders said he was placed in handcuffs and leg irons for the journey from prison to the court and had to roll and throw himself to get himself in and out of the police van as his guards look on with visible amusement. His face was covered by a black hood and, when led into the courtroom, he was held by the neck by one of the seven guards escorting him.
Outraged by the mistreatment, his lawyers, Li Fangping and Zhang Jianguo, got the court to remove the shackles during the hearing. These methods, normally used with prisoners awaiting execution and counter-revolutionaries, were being used to terrify the defendant, his family, his lawyers and the witnesses, they said.
Yang has been held virtually incommunicado, with only one short visit from his lawyer since his arrest on 6 July 2007 on a charge of “subverting state authority.” This means he could easily have been subjected to other mistreatment. He is only allowed into the exercise yard once a month and is not allowed to receive any reading or writing material.
China has been a signatory of international treaties banning mistreatment of detainees since 1988.
21.02 - Olympics yes, but love and justice more, says Chinese protestant leader
“We want the Olympics, but we want love and justice more, Zhang Mingxuan, the head of a protestant church called the Chinese House Church Alliance, said in an open letter to the international community published this week.
And in an interview for Radio Free Asia, Pastor Zhang described the repression of Christians in China, which has been stepped up in the approach to the Olympic Games, he said. Chinese Christians, who number more than 100 million, are regarded as enemies of the Communist Party, and are not free to practice their religion or evangelize by means of privately-owned media, Zhang said. And sometimes they are punished by being sent to detention centres or work camps.
Zhang said at one point he had to move five times in two months. All of his movements are monitored and his phone is tapped. Nonetheless, he says he is very enthusiastic about the Olympics being held in China. Xu Yonghai, an active member of his church, said: “This will be an opportunity for Chinese Christians to get in contact with their counterparts from other countries.”
20.02 - Beijing games organisers urge sponsors not to yield to pressure
Yuan Bin, marketing director for the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG), said at a news conference today that its commercial sponsors were not expected to be affected by pressure over Darfur and other causes championed by international rights groups. “The Olympics should be kept non-political,” Bin said, urging sponsors such as Johnson & Johnson, Volkswagen, General Electric, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, as well as Chinese computer maker Lenovo, to stay on track. An Adidas representative present at the news conference, Li Zhinu, said: “From our point of view, we will not interfere in the internal affairs of a country.”
20.02 - IOC says athletes can keep personal blogs during Beijing games
The International Olympic Committee has decided that athletes will be allowed to keep blogs during the Beijing games but has imposed strict limits on how they are used. The blogs will have to be personal, they may not be used for journalistic purposes, and they may not contain photos or comments on fellow athletes.
Athletes will be able to express personal views in their blogs as long as they respect the Olympic Charter, which bans taking part in political demonstrations. “I don’t think expressing an opinion on something amounts to a demonstration,” said John Coates, the head of the Australian Olympic Committee on 17 February.
19.02 - Trial of Olympic Games critic begins
The trial of Yang Chunlin, one of the promoters of the “We want human rights, not Olympic Games” campaign, opened today in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang. Yang rejected the charges of “subverting state authority” and defended his constitutional right to criticise the government. His lawyer, Li Fangping, told Reuters he was not expecting a verdict today.
15.02 - China reacts angrily to Spielberg pullout
Official Chinese news media yesterday accused western countries of taking advantage of the Olympic Games to attack China on human rights grounds. Recent decisions by well-known figures - including US film director Steven Spielberg yesterday - to withdraw or stay away from the Beijing Olympics because of China’s role in the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region have angered Chinese officials. The Chinese press did not mention Spielberg’s pullout.
The Chinese embassy in Washington said it was “completely unreasonable, irresponsible and unfair” to link the Olympics and Darfur, while the state-owned Global Times newspaper said “western exploitation of the Olympics to pressure China had aroused immediate disgust among ordinary Chinese people.”
US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and British Olympics minister Tessa Jowell have meanwhile come out against a boycott of the games, saying everyone is free to take their own decision on whether or not to attend.
13.02 - Human rights activist Yang Chunlin to be tried next week
Yang Chunlin, a human rights activist who has been held since July 2007 for taking part in the “We want human rights not Olympic Games” campaign, is to be tried on 19 February. His lawyer, Li Fangping, said he feared his client would be found guilty of “inciting subversion of state authority.” Yu Changwu and Wang Guilin, two other participants in the campaign, were sentenced last month to reeducation through work.
Yang’s sister, Yang Chunping, said he has not received any family visits since his arrest. She said she feared she would not be able to attend the trial as it has been classified as involving “state secrets.”
13.02 - Spielberg pulls out as artistic adviser to Beijing Olympics
US film director Steven Spielberg yesterday announced that he would not honour a commitment to be an artistic adviser for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games because of China’s policy on Sudan’s Darfur region. US actress Mia Farrow has taken a similar position, voicing outrage that Beijing could hold the games while “being responsible for genocide” in Darfur.
As artistic adviser, Spielberg had been working with such artists as Chinese film director Zhang Yimou. He said he regarded China as a “key actor” with respect to the conflict in Darfur and that the Olympic Games were supposed to a way of bringing peoples together.
On 24 January, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Jiang Yu condemned any attempt to politicise the games in relation to China’s role in Darfur.
12.02 - Norwegian and Swedish Olympic athletes to be briefed on human rights
The Norwegian Olympic committee yesterday said it provides its athletes with information about the human rights situation in China and encourages them to express their views on it. Committee spokesman Martin Hafsahl said he hoped the athletes would be “better armed to confront reality.” In addition to the usual pre-Olympic training programme, the Norwegian athletes will be given two seminars on human rights, based on information provided by NGOs. The Swedish Olympic committee today announced that it would organise a similar programme.
12.02 - Imprisoned cyber-dissident denied adequate medical treatment
The family of cyber-dissident Jin Haike, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence, is very worried about his state of health. He has been suffering from unexplained stomach pains ever since recently undergoing a belated operation for the removal of his appendix. Reporters Without Borders joins his lawyer, Li Jianqiang, in requesting his release on health grounds.
The authorities in Beijing prison No. 2 and the doctors who operated on him are refusing to issue a diagnosis. His father, Jin Jianguo, recently visited him and said he seemed very weak.
His lawyer said he was also concerned about the health of Li Hong, a writer, detained in Ningbo, who needs medical treatment.
Jin and three other members of a pro-democracy group - Yang Zili, Zhang Honghai and Xu Wei - were arrested in Beijing in 2001. Convicted of inciting subversion of state authority, Jin was given a 10-year sentence in November 2003.
07.02 - Parisians invited to join Reporters Without Frontiers
Tomorrow, on 8 February 2008, Parisians will be invited to join Reporters Without Borders in condemning repression in China. Reporters Without Borders activists will station themselves in one of Paris’ busiest districts at midday and ask passers-by to let themselves be photographed wearing the "Beijing 2008" campaign T-shirt, on which the Olympic rings have been turned into handcuffs. A video about imprisoned journalists will at the same time be shown on a large screen.
venue : metro Havre Caumartin, 50/56 de la rue Caumartin(9th district).
06.02 - Human rights activist Wang Guilin sentenced to re-education through labour
Wang Guilin, a human rights activist, who was involved in the campaign, "We want human rights, not the Olympic Games" was sentenced on 28 January to 18 months of re-education through forced labour. His family were informed on 5 February of the decision by police in Heilongjiang, north-eastern China.
05.02 - France’s human rights minister intervenes on behalf of Hu Jia
French human rights minister, Rama Yade said on 4 February that she had intervened with the Chinese authorities on behalf of dissident Hu Jia who was charged on 30 January with "inciting subversion". "I intervened personally with the Chinese authorities to express my concern and my hopes for his early release", said Rama Yade, adding that she hoped Beijing would "respond to this friendly appeal".
29.01 - Government says six workers have died at Olympic construction sites
While the International Olympic Committee claims that conditions have improved for workers at Olympic Games construction sites, the London-based Sunday Times reported on 27 January that there has been a new blackout on accidents at the construction sites in Beijing, and that 10 workers have been killed in the course of work at the national stadium alone. Thousands of migrant of workers are involved in building or renewing a total of 76 sports venues in Beijing.
Ding Zhenkuan, deputy head of the Beijing Bureau of Work Safety, disputed the British newspaper’s figures at a news conference yesterday, putting the number of workers killed at all sites at six (of whom two at the national stadium). This is the first time the government has issued figures for deaths at Olympic construction sites. They are much lower than those reported by the organisers of the Athens Olympic Games.
28.01 - Prince Charles will not go to the Beijing Olympics’ opening ceremony
Britain’s Prince Charles has let it be known that he will not attend the opening ceremony of this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing. He has done this in a letter written by Clive Alderton, his deputy private secretary, to the Free Tibet Campaign, which had asked him not to go. In the letter, quoted today by the London-based Daily Telegraph newspaper, Alderton wrote: “As you know, His Royal Highness has long taken a close interest in Tibet (...) You asked if the Prince of Wales would be attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. His Royal Highness will not be attending the ceremony.”
Reacting to the news, Beijing Olympic Organising Committee spokesman Wang Hui said: “I think a boycott of the Olympic Games would be an unfair practice. The Beijing Olympic Games belongs to the whole world.”