JACQUELIN MAGNAY IN BEIJING
INTERNATIONAL Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge has distanced his organisation from China's biggest concerns - human rights, Tibet and Taiwan - as the Beijing Olympic Games looms closer.
Rogge told Belgian newspaper De Standaard that the IOC's selection of Beijing to host the 2008 Games had brought about changes to media laws and personal freedoms in China and had shone a spotlight on child labour laws, but said there were limits to the Olympic movement's powers to generate change in the country.
"The IOC is not authorised and has no means to interfere in sovereign matters," Rogge told the paper. "China's relations with Taiwan, the situation in Tibet, those are matters over which the IOC has no authority and must be addressed by other institutions."
Rogge said the Olympics brought with it the global media and international scrutiny, which has an enormous influence over a country's position on certain issues.
"The Games hold up a mirror and show what is happening," Rogge said. "We bring the media to the Games, and I firmly believe the Games have a positive effect."
A BOCOG spokeswoman was asked yesterday whether the Chinese government would allow public protests about Tibet or Falun Gong at the three designated areas in Beijing for demonstrations during the Games.
"Every country has its own laws and regulations, and all protests have to follow Chinese law," she said.
Meanwhile, Rogge said he expected the increased numbers and sophistication of drug testing at the Olympics would produce more positive test results than at previous Games. He said 30 to 40 athletes might be caught doping in Beijing, up from 26 at Athens and 12 at Sydney.
Drug testing officials will test 4500 athletes at Beijing. "The number of tests has increased significantly," Rogge said. "I am sure the doping problem has improved. In athletics, the performances of 20, 30 years ago are not being improved on. Racers don't climb as fast any more in the Tour de France."
Chinese authorities, meanwhile, have downplayed claims by the Turkestan Islamic Party that it was behind two deadly bus bombings in two cities, Chinese state media reported.
Two people were killed in a bomb blast last Monday in south-west China, and three people died in a bus explosion in Shanghai in May.
But a public security official in Yunnan province, where Monday's blast occurred, said no evidence had been found linking the explosions with terrorism, the Xinhua news agency reported.
"We have noticed media reports about the claims, but so far no evidence has been found to indicate the explosions were connected with terrorists and their attacks, or with the Beijing Olympics," Xinhua quoted the official as saying.
In a video statement dated July 23 and released on Saturday, Commander Seyfullah of the Turkestan Islamic Party claimed responsibility for the bus bombings and warned of more attacks to come.
The Turkestan Islamic Party is a separatist group based in Xinjiang, a mostly Muslim state in north-west China.