Group: China Cracking Down on Activists

The Associated Press
Thursday, August 2, 2007; 12:09 PM

BEIJING -- One year before the start of the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government has failed to live up to promises of greater human rights and has instead clamped down on domestic activists and journalists, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

China, which has long been criticized for its human rights record, has cracked down on dissent to stave off potential political instability, the human rights group said.

"The government seems afraid that its own citizens will embarrass it by speaking out about political and social problems, but China's leaders apparently don't realize authoritarian crackdowns are even more embarrassing," Brad Adams, the Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

The Beijing Olympics, which begin Aug. 8, 2008, are a huge source of pride for China. In bidding for the games back in 2001, Chinese leaders promised International Olympic Committee members that the Olympics would lead to an improved climate for human rights and media freedoms.

Instead, there has been "gagging of dissidents, a crackdown on activists and attempts to block independent media coverage," Adams said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment on the Human Rights Watch statement. In the past, China has said it was fulfilling all the commitments made in it's bid for the games.

The IOC said it believed the Olympics have had a positive effect China.

"While some may question China's ability to meet it's obligations related to the Beijing Games, we think it is premature to state that China has failed to live up to it's pledges," IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davis said.

Human Rights Watch sighted several examples of activists who have been obstructed, including a husband-and-wife couple, Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan, who have been under constant surveillance and travel restrictions since May for allegedly "harming state security."

Others include Jingo Yanking, a military surgeon who broke government secrecy to reveal the true scale of Beijing's SARS outbreak in 2003. He has reportedly been banned from leaving China to accept a human rights award in New York.

Hu, an AIDS activist, said law enforcement authorities told him last year, while he was in custody for nearly six weeks, that Olympic security measures started two years ahead of the Beijing Games.

"Olympic security includes extinguishing all threats," he said. "The greatest threats aren't necessarily terrorists or crime, the greatest threats are those who reveal China's social problems and protest the government."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Associated Press