A coalition of NGOs, including International Campaign for Tibet, Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Human Rights in China and Human Rights First urged today Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to raise the issue of human rights violations during her visit to China, as part of a trip to Asia in advance of the G-8 Summit on July 7-9.
“With the eyes of the world on China’s behavior as it prepares for the Olympic Games, the United States and its partners have considerable leverage to wield,” the organizations said.
In the letter, the organizations recognized President Bush’s reference to China and human rights and support for a dialogue with the Dalai Lama’s representatives during the 2008 U.S.-EU Summit Declaration.
“A unified and sustained approach offers the best opportunity at this critical moment to leverage improvements in China’s poor human rights record” they said.
More specifically, the letter recommended President Bush to insist in encouraging China to live up to its commitments with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and to guarantee that there will not be any restrictions on the media prior and during the Olympics Games.
The organizations also noted that on June 2, the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee issued a list of restrictions to foreigners, including reporters, and briefly listed other issues with censorship.
“In the most recent example, human rights activist Huang Qi, founder of the human rights website 64Tianwang, was arrested in Chengdu, the capital of the earthquake-hit province of Sichuan, on June 10. He is accused of ’illegal possession of state secrets.’”
The letter also mentioned that Tibet, including Sichuan province, has been limited to a few regulated visits by the media, therefore, preventing U.S. officials and the rest of the world from seeing clearly the government’s crackdown. On June 26, the Chinese government authorized journalists to enter the Tibet Autonomous Region, yet they are required to obtain a special permit. “China committed to the
International Olympic Committee to ’give the media complete freedom to report when they come to China.’ Simply re-opening the area to foreign tour groups (effective June 25) and allowing journalists to once again apply for permits is not enough to guarantee media access and freedom to report.”
The organizations also stated that the results of the "Human Rights Dialogue" between China and the U.S. were disappointing since it did not guaranteed any concrete improvement. “In fact, the decision, announced days after the meeting, to disbar two lawyers who had sought to represent detained Tibetans signaled that the Chinese government’s behavior may be headed in the opposite direction. Moreover, Chinese authorities acted to suppress dissidents during Assistant Secretary Kramer’s visit or prevent appointments with him.”
Finally, the organizations expressed disappointment and frustration towards an administration that apparently seeks a dialogue to improve human rights, but it does not seek for more feasible advances in this matter.
“We believe that the lack of visible progress from both the U.S. and EU human rights dialogues, positive progress requires the administration to redouble pressure at the highest possible levels.”
The organizations also urged Rice to press on tangible results for human rights improvements in China not only prior and during the Olympic Games, but also afterwards.