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Korea/Beijing Olympics 27 April 2008

Call for release of Chinese and North Korean prisoners of conscience before Olympic torch relay in Seoul and Pyongyang

Reporters Without Borders and South Korean human rights advocate Park Won Soon called today for the release of all prisoners of conscience in North Korea and in China, especially the human rights activist Hu Jia, detained since 27 December 2007. Park Won Soon, a lawyer who heads the Seoul-based civic group Hope Institute, refused to carry the torch relay in Seoul to protest the lack of freedom in China.

The Olympic torch arrived on 27 April in Seoul, in South Korea, and later being borne through the streets of the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.

"The Chinese and North Korean governments should release all prisoners of conscience and implement the Olympic Charter, which defends human dignity. They also must let the foreign press to visit Tibet. We call South Korean citizens to peacefully express during the torch relay in Seoul to indicate their love to the Olympic values", Reporters Without Borders and M. Park said.

Around 30 journalists and 50 Internet users are currently detained in China. Some of them since the 1980s. The government blocks access to thousands for news websites. It jams the Chinese, Tibetan and Uyghur-language programmes of 10 international radio stations. And no journalist has been allowed to move about freely in Tibet and the regions with a Tibetan population since 14 March. Tourists have been banned from visiting the Himalayan region until further notice. Reporters Without Borders has learned of about 50 violations of the right of foreign journalists to move about freely in the Tibetan regions since mid-March.

In North Korea, Kim Jong-il is in direct control of the North Korean press. Each journalist is indoctrinated so as to unfailingly reflect the regime’s ideology and to condemn "bourgeois and imperialist corruption." A typing error can prove costly: several North Korean journalists have been sent to "revolutionising" camps for a simple typing slip. The feared state security, the Kukka Anjon Bowibu, which runs the concentration camps where more than 100,000 North Koreans are detained and tens of thousands of others have died in the course of the past four decades.

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