The Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) begins meeting today in Switzerland. Amnesty International urges the IOC to ensure that human rights concerns are addressed in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics.
China will host the games next year and the Beijing Olympics offer an opportunity for a positive human rights legacy for the country. Specifically, progress on the death penalty, detention without trial, freedom of expression and the protection of human rights activists, would contribute to such a legacy.
Human rights reforms are the primary responsibility of the Chinese authorities, but Amnesty International believes that the IOC can still make a significant contribution by using its influence to bring about positive change. According to the Olympic Charter, the IOC has a role in promoting a positive Olympic legacy for the cities and countries hosting the Games.
The philosophy of the Olympic Movement is laid out most clearly in The Fundamental Principles of Olympism, which form part of the Olympic Charter. These Principles stress the importance of “universal fundamental ethical principles” and “the preservation of human dignity” to the Olympic spirit. President of the IOC, Dr Jacques Rogge has publicly stated that “We are convinced that the Olympic Games will improve human rights in China.”
A number of recent cases underscore the urgent need for action on the human rights situation in China in the lead up to the games.
On 10 October Wang Ling was assigned to 15 months ‘Re-education Through Labour" for signing petitions and preparing banners in protest against the demolition of her property for Olympic construction projects. Beaten, detained and imprisoned on numerous occasions, Wang Ling is currently being held at Daxing Re-education Through Labour Facility in Beijing.
"Re-education Through Labour" is used against people considered by the Chinese police to have committed offences not serious enough to be punished under the Criminal Law. These include petty criminals, critics of the government and followers of banned beliefs.
Yang Chunlin was detained and reportedly tortured for his involvement in a petition "We Want Human Rights, not the Olympics", signed by farmers protesting against the confiscation of their land. Since his detention in July, he has had his arms and legs stretched and chained to the four corners of an iron bed on numerous occasions. He has then been left to eat, drink and defecate in that position. He is still in detention.
Housing rights activist, Ye Guozhu, is serving a four-year sentence after he applied for permission to hold a demonstration about forced evictions in Beijing. His home and business were demolished as a result of Olympics-related construction and his family received no compensation. He is reported to have been tortured in prison.
His son and brother, Ye Mingjun and Ye Guoqiang, were detained by Beijing police on suspicion of "inciting subversion" at the end of September 2007. They had protested against forced evictions that were supposedly carried out to clear space for construction for the Beijing Olympics. At the end of October, Ye Mingjun was released on bail and now awaits trial. Ye Guoqiang is still in detention.
These detainees must be released immediately and unconditionally. The reports of torture must be investigated and measures taken against anyone found responsible. Those abused must receive reparation.