Reporters Without Borders representatives spoke today at the annual shareholders meeting of the German sportswear company Adidas, an official sponsor of the Beijing Olympic Games. Members of the organisation were inside and outside the conference room in Fürth, near Nuremberg, to talk to participants about press freedom in China.
“With exactly three months to go to the opening ceremony of the games, we wanted to draw the attention of Adidas executives and shareholders to the serious restrictions being imposed on journalists and human rights activists in China and Tibet,” Reporters Without Borders said. “As a signatory of the Olympic Charter, Adidas should promote campaigns and courageous actions in support of human rights in China.”
The press freedom organisation added : “Adidas is a sports brand that is recognised throughout the world and its logo with three parallel stripes will everywhere during the Olympic Games. To avoid having its logo linked to human rights violations in China, the company’s executives must
lose no time in publicly voicing their disapproval for the repressive methods used by the Chinese government,”
Reporters Without Borders also participated in Coca-Cola’s annual shareholders meeting last month in the United States.
During today’s Adidas meeting, Vincent Brossel, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk, pointed out the danger of the Adidas brand being linked with the images of repression in China and being the target of reprisals by consumers. He asked the company’s management to commit to signing a Sponsor’s Declaration of Responsibility drafted by Reporters Without Borders, which was sent to Adidas executives at the start of April.
Elke Schäfter, the head of the German section of Reporters Without Borders, stressed Adidas’ responsibility in the current context and urged the multinational’s executives to speak publicly about China’s free speech violations, including the news blackout on events in Tibet.
In his opening address, Adidas CEO Herbert Hainer described human rights organisations as “moralists who just emit rhetoric.” Brossel responded by asking him if Chinese human rights activist Hu Jia, who was recently sentenced to three and a half years in prison, was also a “moralist who just emits rhetoric.”
Reporters Without Borders bought shares in Adidas in order to be able to take part in this meeting. It has bought shares in all the companies that are sponsors of the 2008 Beijing Games.
Adidas CEO Herbert Hainer recently told the German magazine Der Spiegel he had no guilty conscience about being a sponsor of the Beijing games. “But one thing should be very clear,” he added, “our involvement is not a recognition of any policy, society or culture, it is recognition of sport.” Adidas has contributed an extraordinary 70 million euros to the organisation of the games.