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Amnesty International: China's Crackdown on Activists Intensified Because of Beijing Olympics

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 2, 2008
10:55 AM

CONTACT: Amnesty International
Wende Gozan at 212-633-4247
or T. Kumar at 202-675-8578

 
China's Crackdown on Activists Intensified Because of Beijing Olympics, Says Amnesty International
Bush Must Call for UN Investigators to Have Tibet Access
 

WASHINGTON, DC - April 2 - Rather than striving to improve its human rights record in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics, Chinese authorities have seemingly increased the crackdown on activists in China, including in Tibet, with no indication that their tactics will change, said Amnesty International (AI).

"The Olympic Games have so far failed to act as a catalyst for reform," said Irene Khan, secretary general of AI. "Unless urgent steps are taken to redress the situation, a positive human rights legacy for the Beijing Olympics looks increasingly beyond reach." Khan added that China's recent actions "cast doubt on whether the Chinese authorities are really serious about their commitment to improve human rights in the run up to the Olympics."

In and around Beijing, the Chinese authorities have continued to silence and imprison peaceful human rights activists in the pre-Olympics "clean up," said the human rights organization as it released The Olympics countdown -- crackdown on activists threatens Olympics legacy. Meanwhile, recent police and military action in Tibet further demonstrates China's refusal to curb violations against human rights.

"With only four months until the Olympic Games, President Bush should take immediate steps to address the deteriorating human rights situation in China," said T. Kumar, Asia advocacy director for Amnesty International USA. "Otherwise he is tacitly endorsing human rights violations of a horrifying scale. First and foremost, Bush must call for U.N. investigators to have access into Tibet to probe widespread allegations of excessive force and killings."

Amnesty International's report details cases of prosecution of human rights activists for reporting on abuses or linking their human rights concerns with Beijing's hosting of the Games. AI calls for the immediate and unconditional release of peaceful activists detained solely for expressing their views, including:

* Land rights activist Yang Chunlin, who was sentenced to five years in prison on March 25 for 'inciting subversion' after he spearheaded a campaign under the banner, "We don't want the Olympics, we want human rights." He reportedly was tortured by police in detention, but denied the opportunity to raise these allegations in court.

* Beijing-based activist Hu Jia, who was tried on March 18 for "inciting subversion" in connection with his human rights activities after he had already spent many months under intrusive house arrest. His wife Zeng Jinyan continues to be held under tight police surveillance at home together with their newborn baby.

The pre-Olympics "clean-up" has also resulted in the detention of thousands of activists in Beijing, with many being sent back to their home provinces. Such practices are reminiscent of "Custody and Repatriation," a system of detention pending repatriation for internal migrants which was abolished in 2003 with great fanfare and heralded in China as an important step forward for human rights. Some activists have also been assigned to "Re-education through labor" -- another abusive system of detention without trial, which has been stalled on China's reform agenda for many years.

New regulations introduced last year to increase freedom for foreign journalists in China have not been applied in Tibet, and several journalists have been blocked from reporting on sensitive issues in Beijing and other parts of China. Meanwhile tight restrictions remain in place on domestic media, and internet censorship has tightened, with several HIV/AIDS news websites recently targeted. Reports suggest that information controls are being extended to cover SMS text messaging in Beijing.

The AI report notes certain reforms that have been made. In particular, the organization welcomes official assertions of a significant reduction in death sentences and executions last year as a result of the re-introduction of Supreme People's Court review, but calls on the authorities to publish full national death penalty statistics to back up such claims.

In Tibet and surrounding areas, the authorities have used excessive, sometimes lethal force to disperse protesters. Amnesty International recognizes the authorities' duty to protect individuals and property from acts of violence, including apparently ethnically motivated attacks on Han Chinese, but their actions must follow principles of necessity and proportionality outlined in international human rights standards. Amnesty International called on the Chinese authorities to immediately end repressive measures against Chinese and Tibetan human rights defenders. In addition, AI is calling on the Chinese authorities to:

* give immediate access to Tibet and surrounding areas to U.N. investigators and other independent observers;
* disclose the names, whereabouts and legal status of all those detained in Tibet, and to release anyone detained solely for peaceful protest;
* cease arbitrary detention, intimidation and harassment of activists;
* end punitive administrative detention;
* allow full and free reporting across the whole of China for all journalists;
* free all prisoners of conscience;
* reduce the number of capital crimes as a step toward abolition.

To view the report The Olympics countdown -- crackdown on activists threatens Olympics legacy, please visit:
And see supplementary update on violence in Tibet:

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