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2008 Beijing Games 9 July 2008

Sarkozy betrays himself and China’s dissidents by deciding to attend opening ceremony

Reporters Without Borders deplores French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision, which he confirmed early today to his Chinese counterpart, to attend the Olympic Games opening ceremony on 8 August. He said he would be in Beijing’s Olympic Stadium both as president of France and as current holder of the European Union’s rotating presidency.

“By taking this decision, President Sarkozy is breaking promises he gave,” the press freedom organisation said. “He clearly conditioned his attendance on the resumption of a real dialogue between the Chinese authorities and the Dalai Lama. The meetings recently held in Beijing went nowhere, and Chinese officials continue to denounce the Dalai Lama’s clique. Sarkozy is also defying opposition within the EU and the European Parliament to his attendance at the opening ceremony.”

One of the Tibetan negotiators said on his return from Beijing last weekend that holding talks with the Chinese authorities before the games was “not feasible” because “they are obsessed with the Olympics.” The Tibetan government in exile suspects that the Chinese resumed negotiations solely for the sake of the Olympics.

“President Sarkozy’s decision is also a stab in the back for China’s dissidents,” Reporters Without Borders continued. “Those who are in prison will not be able to count on France to help get them released early. Those who are subject to steadily increasing surveillance and harassment will have to do without the support of Sarkozy, although he took such a clear stand in their favour just two years ago.”

Sarkozy wrote in his book Témoignage, published in July 2006 when he was a presidential candidate: “I am not a follower of a realpolitik in which, for the sake of higher economic interests, one must forget principles including, and above all, respect for human rights. It is not a sign of disrespect for this empire that is China to ask the Chinese about political prisoners. Saying nothing makes you an accomplice.” Where are Sarkozy’s convictions now?

What place do the recently detained dissidents Hu Jia and Huang Qi have in President Sarkozy’s concerns now? Chinese human rights lawyers may often be invited to France, but no one dares to speak firmly to the Chinese government when they are arrested.

No fewer than 25 Chinese journalists, bloggers and cyber-dissidents have been arrested or sentenced to imprisonment since the start of this year.

“We still have a month to go before the start of the 2008 Olympic Games,” Reporters Without Borders added. “Now is the time for a massive campaign for more freedom of expression in China. We call for street demonstrations to be held outside Chinese embassies around the world while the Olympic Games opening ceremony is taking place on 8 August.”


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