A White House announcement that US President George W. Bush will attend the Olympic Games opening ceremony on 8 August in Beijing and the probability, according to French media reports, that French President Nicolas Sarkozy will also attend were condemned today by Reporters Without Borders as "a capitulation and stab in the back for China’s dissidents."
"President Sarkozy promised to consult his European partners before taking a decision but he clearly has not done so, just as he did not keep his election campaign promises not to pursue a ’realpolitik’ and to put human rights at the heart of his programme," the press freedom organisation said.
"Sarkozy also conditioned his attendance on a resumption of the dialogue on Tibet, and meetings did indeed take place recently between China and the Dalai Lama’s representatives, but so far there have been no concrete results and Chinese officials have continued their virulent criticism of Tibetan leaders in the press.
"Sarkozy and Bush are now depriving themselves of a means of leverage that might have led to the release of imprisoned journalists and human rights activists. We would like to know on what grounds these two presidents have reached their decision. There is still a month to go before the start of the 2008 Olympics. Now is the time for a massive campaign for an improvement in the situation of free expression in China. We appeal now for demonstrations outside Chinese embassies all over the world during the Olympic Games opening ceremony on 8 August.
"As we do not have permission to go to China, still less to demonstrate there, we will organise a cyber-demonstration outside a virtual version of Beijing’s Olympic Stadium on our website (www.rsf.org), which will begin on 8 August and will continue throughout the games. Everyone will be able to participate in this protest and express their disagreement with the detention of prisoners of conscience and the continuing crackdown on dissidents.
"There has been no improvement in the situation of free expression in recent months and arrests are continuing at the same pace," Reporters Without Borders added. "Huang Qi, the well-known editor of a human rights website, was arrested in June in Sichuan province, while journalist Sun Lin was given a four-year prison sentence for contributing to a website based outside China."
The announcement that President Bush and his wife will attend the opening ceremony was made yesterday by the White House.
The Elys=E9e Palace has said that President Sarkozy will announce "whether or not" he will go to Beijing after meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao during the G-8 summit on 8-9 July in Japan. But the media have quoted various French officials, including France’s ambassador to China, as saying that Sarkozy will definitely be in Beijing on 8 August. Sarkozy has also reportedly said this to his party’s legislators.
Reporters Without Borders has for several months been calling for a boycott of the 8 August Olympic Games opening ceremony by heads of state and government and members of royal families. The governments of Poland, Estonia, Austria and the Czech Republic have already announced that they will not send any representative to the opening ceremony. Britain’s Prince Charles was the first to let it be known that he would not go to Beijing for the games.
With a month to go to the Beijing Olympics, around 100 journalists, cyber-dissidents, bloggers and Internet users are imprisoned in China. The Chinese authorities have not kept the promises to improve respect for human which they gave in 2001, when Beijing was chosen to host the 2008 Olympics.