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China 7 February 2008

With exactly six months to go to Beijing Olympics, Reporters Without Borders condemns broken promises

There are just six months left until the opening of the Beijing Summer Olympics. The world’s biggest sports event will get under way in the Chinese capital on 8 August. The Chinese authorities gave very specific promises in 2001 in order to win the games for Beijing. They said the holding of the games would "help improve human rights" and that there would be "total press freedom" before and during the games.

None of this has happened. About 80 journalists and Internet users are currently imprisoned in China. Some have been detained since the 1980s. The government blocks access to thousands of websites and the cyber-police watch Internet users closely. A total of 180 foreign reporters were arrested, attacked or threatened in China in 2007.

There are no grounds for claiming that the situation has improved. The number of journalists imprisoned in China in 2001 was 14. Currently there are 32 journalists and more than 50 cyber-dissidents and Internet users in prison in China. The overall number of political prisoners runs into the thousands.

The International Olympic Committee and the sponsors of the Olympic Games meanwhile remain silent, thereby discrediting the Olympic values.

We do no think it is too late to get people released. There was evidence of this just two days ago, when the Hong Kong-based journalist Ching Cheong was freed two years before completing a five-year sentence. Some journalists, many well-known figures and even the authorities in Hong Kong had long been pressing for his release.

The repression is continuing without any let-up, sidelining all those who dare to call for concrete improvements before the start of the games. Blogger Hu Jia, for example, is being held on a charge of "inciting subversion of state power" despite an international outcry. He is facing the possibility of a long prison sentence. Human rights activist Wang Guilin, who took part in a campaign with the slogan "We want human rights, not Olympic Games," has just been sentenced to 18 months of reeducation through work in northeastern China. But IOC president Jacques Rogge keeps silent. And the Chinese government condemns attempts to politicise the games.

Families, the forgotten victims

Today, the first day of the Lunar New Year, Reporters Without Borders would like to draw attention to the wives and families of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents. As well as the financial problems they must face, they are often the victims of threats and sanctions. At the moment is that of Hu Jia’s young wife, Zeng Jinyan, who is under house arrest in Beijing with their three-month-old daughter. Zeng cannot leave their apartment or communicate with the outside world. One of their friends, Yuan Weijing, the wife of imprisoned human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng, is permanently watched by the police and by thugs recruited by the local authorities who recently threw stones at a German TV crew trying to interview her.

The wives and partners of dissidents often lose their jobs. This has been the case with the partners of cyber-dissidents Yang Zili (held since 2001) and Ouyang Yi (held from 2002 to 2004). The wife and son of the publisher Hada, imprisoned in Inner Mongolia since 1996, have been subjected to all sorts of harassment. The son, Uiles, even served a two-year prison sentence for alerting international organisations about his father, who was given a 15-year jail term. The authorities refuse to give him ID papers as long as he "continues to create problems."

Protest in Paris

Reporters Without Borders today invited Parisians to condemn repression in China. Its activists stationed themselves in one of Paris’ busiest shopping districts from midday onwards and asked passers-by to let themselves be photographed wearing the “Beijing 2008” campaign T-shirt, on which the Olympic rings are shown as handcuffs. The photos will be used in a Reporters Without Borders campaign called “Parisians get involved” to show the extent of support for the protests.

Some 30 leading European sports personalities and actors including Carole Bouquet, Vincent Perez and Isabelle Autissier have already agreed to take part in this campaign by wearing the “Beijing 2008” T-shirt.

A video about the journalists and cyber-dissidents detained in China was projected on a gigantic screen at the entrance to the Citadium sports store, while activists also distributed postcards, badges and bracelets to passers-by.

Reporters Without Borders hails the announcement on 28 January that Britain’s Prince Charles has decided not to attend the Beijing Olympics inauguration above all because of the violation of basic freedoms in Tibet, where free expression is even more restricted. Three Tibetans were given long prison sentences last year because of reports about repressions they had sent abroad.

More information about Reporters Without Borders’ campaign:

In this country
3 June - China
“Tank Man” photo displayed outside Chinese embassy in Paris on eve of Tiananmen Square massacre
2 June - China
All references to Tiananmen Square massacre closely censored for 20 years
12 May - China
Foreign reporters prevented from working in Sichuan a year after earthquake
24 April - China
Concern that detained Tibetan magazine editor is being tortured
25 March - China
Government blocks access to YouTube

in the annual report
China - Annual report 2008
China - Annual report 2007
China - Annual report 2006

4 May 2009 - Nepal
Mission report : A call to end violence and impunity
2 April 2009 - Pakistan
Fact-finding visit by Reporters Without Borders to Swat “valley of fear”
16 March 2009 - Afghanistan
Report of fact-finding mission : Press freedom in free-fall in run-up to presidential election

Asia archives
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Asia press releases
3 June - North Korea
Pyongyang judges asked to be lenient with two American journalists
3 June - Afghanistan
US forces arrest a journalist in Khost
2 June - China
Blocking of Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Blogger deprives Chinese of Web 2.0
2 June - Sri Lanka
Press freedom activist badly beaten in Colombo, hospitalised
29 May - Sri Lanka
Journalists trying to cover fate of Tamils are threatened, obstructed