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2008 Beijing Games 30 June 2008

Has President Sarkozy decided to break his promise to the French and attend the inauguration of the Olympic Games?

Reports suggest that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has already secretly decided to attend the Olympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing on 8 August, despite his promise to consult his European partners on the subject and to take a decision in accordance with the progress made in the dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama.

"On what basis have you decided to go to Beijing?" Reporters Without Borders asks President Sarkozy. "On the progress in the dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama’s representatives? The dialogue has deadlocked and the recent Lhasa leg of the Olympic torch relay was marked by a new declaration of war by Chinese officials against Tibetans who support the Dalai Lama. On an improvement in human rights in China? Arrests are on the increase and the government has not responded to any of the European requests for the release of prisoners of conscience.

"Mr. President, surely you have not dared to break your promise to attend the opening ceremony only if the Chinese kept their promises? Or have you succumbed to the anti-French demonstrations that were orchestrated by the Chinese government? What a sad image France would present if it were to submit to blackmail by a government that continues to flout its people’s right to express their views!

"As you are to take over the European Union’s rotating presidency tomorrow, you must surely be aware that the European Parliament adopted a resolution on 10 April asking you not to attend this ceremony if the Chinese authorities did not agree to resume a proper dialogue with the Tibetans."

In April, when repeatedly pressed on the subject, Sarkozy conditioned his attendance at the opening ceremony on a resumption of dialogue between China and the Dalai Lama’s representatives. Meetings did take place but the process has been frozen since May. And when the United States and the European Union recently issued a joint appeal for "results-oriented" talks on Tibet, it was rejected by China as meddling in its internal affairs. The Chinese authorities are also barring foreign journalists from Tibet while massive roundups and reeducation campaigns continue.

There are reports that indicate that Sarkozy may take advantage of the G-8 summit on 8-9 July in Japan to announce to his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, that he will attend the opening ceremony of the games. Several French officials including France’s ambassador in Beijing have told journalists that Sarkozy will be in Beijing on 8 August.

This decision seems to have been taken despite the fact that come EU countries, including Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia and Austria, have come out in favour of boycotting the opening ceremony.

A petition signed by 6,500 Internet users calling on Sarkozy not to go to Beijing on 8 August has been handed in to the Elysée Palace by Reporters Without Borders. A total of 53 Members of the European Parliament have also signed a similar appeal organised by Reporters Without Borders. With less than a month and a half to go to the start of the games, around 100 journalists, cyber-dissidents, bloggers and Internet users are still imprisoned in China. The Chinese authorities have never kept the human rights promises they gave in 2001 when Beijing was chosen to host the 2008 games.

In this country
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“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
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in the annual report
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Asia press releases
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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
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