I love the Olympics. The spectacle, the excitement, wondering whether we will win gold this year, the sporting excellence on display for all to see.
But this year, I've decided I won't be watching any of it. No opening or closing ceremonies, no sporting events that normally I would have loved to have watched.
Why? Because it's clear that China has an appalling record on Human Rights, and contrary to all their promises (and the promises of the International Olympic Committe), the abuse of human rights in China has actually got worse in the run-up to the Olympics, not better. As if we couldn't see that coming.
Here's Amnesty International on the subject:
28 July 2008: The Chinese authorities have broken their promise to improve the country's human rights situation and betrayed the core values of the Olympics, according to a new Amnesty International report.
The Olympics Countdown: Broken Promises concludes that in most of these areas human rights have continued to deteriorate since the previous Amnesty International report The Olympics Countdown: Crackdown on Activists Threatens Olympic Legacy, which was published in April this year.
In the run-up to the Olympics, the Chinese authorities have locked up, put under house arrest and forcibly removed individuals they believe may threaten the image of "stability" and "harmony" they want to present to the world.
"By continuing to persecute and punish those who speak out for human rights, the Chinese authorities have lost sight of the promises they made when they were granted the Games seven years ago," said Roseann Rife, Asia-Pacific Deputy Director at Amnesty International.
There's more... including details of online censorship and blocking of a wide range of websites to journalists covering the Games in China, despite official promises to ensure "complete media freedom".
Amnesty International also believes that local activists and journalists working on human rights issues in China are at particular risk of abuse during the Games. Chinese journalists operate in a climate of censorship, unable to report on issues deemed sensitive by the authorities, and many still languish in jail for reporting on such issues.
Housing rights activist Ye Guozhu continues to serve his four-year sentence for "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble" because of his opposition to the seizure and demolition of property to make way for new construction projects for next month's Olympic Games.
China is still the world's top executioner. The Supreme People's Court (SPC) initiated a review of the death penalty that is believed to have resulted in a significant drop in executions. A senior official said that in the first half of 2008 15 per cent of death sentences were rejected by the SPC.
However, the authorities continue to refuse to disclose the full number of those sentenced to death and executed - the total figure remains a state secret. Estimates put the number of those executed every year in the thousands. Around 68 offences - including non-violent crimes such as drug-related offences – are punishable by death in China.
View the complete Amnesty International report in HTML or as a pdf.
Human Rights Watch says:
The run-up to the Beijing Olympics has been marred by a well-documented surge in violations of the rights of free expression and association, as well as media freedom. In addition, abuses of migrant construction workers who were pivotal to Beijing's infrastructure improvements have increased, as have evictions of Beijing residents whose homes were demolished to make way for that infrastructure. Those abuses reflect both the Chinese government's wholesale failure to honor its Olympics-related human rights promises, as well as the negligence of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in ensuring that China fulfills its commitments.
"The Chinese government and the International Olympic Committee have had seven years to deliver on their pledges that these games would further human rights," said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "Instead, the Beijing Games have prompted a rollback in some of the most basic rights enshrined in China’s constitution and international law."
There's more - China: Olympics Harm Key Human Rights.
Destruction of homes
Or how about the fact that thousands of Chinese people were forcibly removed from their homes, which were demolished to make way for the Olympic stadiums and infrastructure surrounding the Games. The Chinese government claimed that they were all fully compensated and happy, but this is not true:
- In Beijing, Forced Evictions Make Room for Olympics
- Olympics blamed for forcible removal of 2m over 20 years
- Olympics: homes forcibly destroyed, prison for those who request compensation
In Tiananmen Square in June 1989, the Chinese government massacred an unknown number of peaceful protestors. 19 years later, about 130 prisoners are still being held for their role in the demonstrations that were crushed in the military crackdown:
- The Starting Line: The Tiananmen Square Protests, 19 Years Later
- An Olympic Amnesty
- Olympic debate focuses on Tiananmen prisoners
And then there's Tibet, which since 1949 has been occupied by China. Tibet has a history of at least 1300 years of independence from China. In 821 the two countries ended almost 200 years of fighting with a treaty engraved on three stone pillars, one of which still stands in front of the Jokhang cathedral in Lhasa.
From Free Tibet - 10 facts about Tibet
Chinese occupation has resulted in the death of over one million Tibetans, the destruction of over 6,000 monasteries, nunneries and temples, and the imprisonment and torture of thousands of Tibetans.
The basic freedoms of speech, religion, and assembly are strictly limited, and arbitrary arrests continue. There are currently hundreds of political prisoners in Tibet, enduring a commonplace punishment of torture.
The Chinese government increasingly encourages Han Chinese to migrate to Tibet, offering them higher wages and other inducements. This policy is threatening the survival of Tibetan people. Tibetans are becoming a minority in the TAR. Yearly, thousands of Tibetans still flee from Tibet, making the treacherous journey over the Himalayas into a world of exile.
Find out more about Tibet:
- Free Tibet
- Friends of Tibet (NZ)
- International campaign for Tibet
- Tibet Online
- The Tibetan People's Uprising Movement
- Google news search results for "Free Tibet"
Persecution of Falun Gong (Falun Dafa)
The Chinese government banned the spiritual group Falun Gong claiming it is an evil cult that threatens social stability and spreads superstitious thinking. The Chinese Communist Party... accuses Falun Gong of illegal gatherings, theft, and actions causing the death of followers. Li Hongzhi, the founder of Falun Gong... insists that Falun Gong is apolitical and has no intention of threatening its followers or the power of the Chinese government. Despite these assurances, the government has instigated an official crackdown on members including mass arrests, beatings, labor camps, charges of treason and subversion, and vilification in the official media.
- China's Human Rights Record and Falun Gong
- Falun Dafa Information Centre
- Falun Gong: Cult or Just Cultivating?
- Falun Gong Human Rights Working Group
- Wikipedia: Falun Gong
Chinese working conditions and slavery
In order to produce the cheap goods that we in the Western world take for granted, working conditions for many in China are pretty appalling - with slavery becoming more widespread. In June 2007, police said they had rescued more than 500 people from forced labor in brick kilns, where they were worked 18 hours a day and beaten if they tried to escape:
- China Labor Watch
- New workers' rights thwarted in China
- Slave Labor in China Sparks Outrage
- Slave labour on the increase in China
- The root of slave labour in China
I know my little boycott won't make the slightest difference to China - but knowing what I do about the way the Chinese government treats its people, I just can't bring myself to watch the Olympics this year. I can't just look the other way and pretend that all is well.
Much as sportsmen and women would like to believe that politics and sport shouldn't mix, I can't see how they can be anything but inextricably intertwined. Politics and sport do mix - because politics determines how each of us lives our life, and underpins everything we do.
Technorati Tags: Olympics, China, boycott, human rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, forced evictions, Tiananmen Square, Tibet, Falnun Gong, Falun Dafa, workers rights, slavery.