Foreign journalists working from the Olympics press centre in Beijing are unable to access amnesty.org – the Amnesty International website. A number of other websites are also reported to have been blocked. As Amnesty International prepares to launch a new report evaluating the Chinese authorities’ human rights performance in the run-up to the Olympics, this flies in the face of official promises to ensure “complete media freedom” for the Games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has on many occasions highlighted the loosening of restrictions on foreign media in China as an example of an improvement in human rights brought about by the hosting of the Olympics. On 17 July Jaques Rogge, IOC President, went as far as to claim that ‘there will be no censorship on the internet.’ The Olympics Countdown: Broken Promises is to be published online today at 21:00 GMT, Tuesday 29 July at 05:00am Hong Kong time. The follow-up to China: The Olympics Countdown: Crackdown on Activists Threatens Olympic Legacy which was released in April this year, the new report shows that there has still been little progress towards fulfilling the Chinese authorities’ promise to improve human rights, but rather continued deterioration in key areas. Blocking Amnesty International’s website, along with a number of others, is a clear example of the Chinese authorities’ broken promises. On Tuesday 1 April 2008, Kevin Gosper, Vice Chair of the IOC co-ordinating commission, was at a meeting in Beijing where he urged the Chinese government to honour the commitment in the host city contract to allow free internet access to the media attending the Games. Gosper said that the continued blocking of some websites would “reflect very poorly” on the hosts. “This morning we insisted again,” Gosper added. “Our concern is that the press is able to operate as it has at previous Games – at Games time. I’m satisfied that the Chinese understand the need for this and they will do it.
Have your say on censorship and other human rights issues in China on Amnesty International’s The China Debate website.