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Amnesty accuses China of increasing abuses in run-up to Olympics
AP[Tuesday, August 07, 2007 10:50]
BEIJING: China is failing to live up to its promise that staging the 2008 Olympic Games would bring greater civil liberties, human rights group Amnesty International said in a report issued Tuesday.

Chinese authorities have violated pledges made when bidding for the games by heightening abuse and surveillance of political and religious dissidents, jailing journalists, and closing publications focusing on social development, the report said.

With just one year before the games, time is "running out for the Chinese government to fulfill its promise of promoting human rights as part of the Olympics legacy," the group's secretary-general, Irene Khan, said in a statement.

"Unless the Chinese authorities take urgent measures to stop human rights violations over the coming year, they risk tarnishing the image of China and the legacy of the Beijing Olympics," Khan said.

Amnesty International compiled its latest assessment of China's record on civil and political rights in a report titled "China: The Olympics countdown — one year left to fulfill human rights promises."

Amnesty's release came as six activists were detained Tuesday after scaling down a part of the Great Wall with a 42-square meter (450 square feet) big banner that read "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008," the London-based Free Tibet Campaign and Students for a Free Tibet said in an e-mail statement.

Activists say China is using the Olympics to underscore its claims on Tibet, which is says it has ruled for centuries. But many Tibetans say their homeland was essentially an independent state for most of that time. Chinese communist troops occupied Tibet in 1951, and Beijing continues to rule the region with a heavy hand.

"Were sending a clear message that China's dream of international leadership cannot be realized as long as it continues its brutal occupation of Tibet," said Tenzin Dorjee, deputy director of the New York-based Students for a Free Tibet.

On Monday, police detained journalists at a rare protest in Beijing staged by a free-press advocacy group that accused the Chinese government of failing to meet pledges for greater media freedom.

The detentions, which came during a visit to Beijing by International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, followed the unfurling of posters depicting the Olympic rings made from handcuffs by members of Reporters Without Borders on a pedestrian bridge outside the headquarters of the Beijing Olympics planning committee.

The Paris-based group said China continues to restrict press freedoms and lock up journalists, political dissidents and activists who publish on the Internet — despite pledges to liberalize made when bidding to stage the games.

"Most important is that we didn't come to call for a boycott," said Vincent Brossel of the group. "We are calling for concrete achievements, the release of political prisoners, opening of Web access and an end to radio jamming."

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 freedom.

Foreign journalists were promised "complete freedom to report." Chinese authorities also said that staging the games would provide an opportunity for new social development, although they made no specific public promises on reforms.

Among its findings, Amnesty International said China's frequent use of the death penalty remains shrouded in secrecy and prone to abuses. Police are also increasingly using their powers of detention without trial to deal with critics and undesirables, intensifying abuses against human rights activists, and harassing the lawyers and legal advisers who seek to protect them in the courts, it said.

"Not only are we not seeing delivery on the promises made that the Olympics would help improve the human rights situation in China, but the police are using the pretext of the Olympics to extend the use of detention without trial," Khan said.
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