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Press Group Again Protests China's Rights Record Before Olympics

A press freedom group wants China to improve its human rights record as the nation prepares to host the 2008 Olympic Games. Victoria Cavaliere reports from VOA's New York Bureau that Reporters Without Borders staged a bicycle protest in Manhattan.

Reporters Without Borders says China has reneged on a promise to improve free speech and human rights before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

The group says six years after China told the International Olympic Committee it would take concrete steps to improve its rights record, about 100 journalists and cyber-dissidents remain in prison. The group says thousands of other dissidents are jailed and executed in public every year.

Reporters Without Borders organized a small but visible protest in the streets of New York City, using bicycles outfitted with large billboards that say "Beijing 2008," and feature the five interlocking Olympic rings as handcuffs.

Lucie Morillon of Reporters Without Borders says the International Olympic Committee cannot remain silent.

"The Olympics are not just about sports," Morillon said. "It is also a celebration of freedom and human rights. And if China wants to house the games, it should respect not only the sports event, but also the values that the Olympic Charter is supposed to promote."

Reporters Without Borders held a rare protest Monday in Beijing, also using the image of the Olympic rings as handcuffs. Chinese police scuffled with the protesters and detained about a dozen foreign journalists covering the event. They were later released.

China's Olympic organizers issued a statement saying they will not allow the 2008 Olympics to be a sound board for foreigners with, in their words, a "political agenda."

But Reporters Without Borders and other activists say they are pressing ahead, organizing protests around the world in the year leading up to the August 2008 games.

The captain of the New York bike ride, Mark Davis, says he thinks the billboards and bikes will draw attention to the issue.

"In New York, everyone has seen everything," Davis said. "So we need to come and do things differently. The ad that we have is really eye catching."

Wenyi Wang, a U.S-based Chinese journalist and human rights activist, says the Olympic Games are a perfect opportunity to spotlight Beijing's rights violations.

"We need to speak out at this moment, and now is the time with everyone focusing on Beijing. We have to focus on basic human rights," Wenyi said.

Reporters Without Borders says the International Olympic Committee is in the best position to demand action from the Chinese government. The group says the IOC should not bend to pressure from international businesses that see China as a lucrative market.