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US - 2008 Beijing Olympics 4 July 2008

President Bush’s decision to attend the Olympic opening ceremony: a capitulation of the human rights cause

Reporters Without Borders is deeply disappointed by the President’s decision to attend the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony. “This is a capitulation,” the press freedom organization said. “The President is depriving himself of an effective way to pressure the Chinese authorities for the release of political dissidents, and the opportunity to push for concrete improvements on human rights and press freedom in China.”

As the Beijing Olympic’s Opening Ceremony is fast approaching, Reporters Without Borders urges President Bush to explain publicly on what grounds he based his decision, as repression is actually increasing in the run up to the Games. For instance, “Olympic prisoners” have been sent to jail simply for asking for human rights to be upheld. Currently, China is the world’s biggest prison for journalists and Internet users.

White House spokesperson Dana Perino announced today that President Bush will be attending the Opening Ceremony. She then retracted and later issued a correction stating that “The President and Mrs. Bush will attend the Opening Ceremonies of the Summer Olympic Games on August 8."

According to news reports, Perino was pressed by reporters earlier in April with the same question, answering, “I cannot... I’m not trying to signal anything by saying that. I don’t have the president’s schedule. It is way too far in advance for us to announce the president’s schedule." Until today, the White House Press Office and the President himself have been vague about his attendance of the Opening Ceremony.

President Bush has been encouraged by human rights, non-profit organizations and some members of Congress to boycott the Opening Ceremony as a sign of protest for China’s grave human rights record.

On 27 June, Reporters Without Borders, along with other human rights organizations sent a letter addressed to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urging her to raise this issue during her trip to China prior to the G-8 summit in Japan. (See press release ).

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

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Fact-finding visit by Reporters Without Borders to Swat “valley of fear”
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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