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Rights Group Criticizes China for Failure to Act on Darfur

Human rights advocates say China is not doing enough to address the crisis in Sudan's troubled region of Darfur. One group is calling on corporate sponsors of the 2008 Olympic Games to push China to do more. But as VOA's Alex Villarreal reports from Washington, their responses have also drawn criticism.

U.S.-based advocacy group Dream for Darfur says corporate sponsors of the Olympics in Beijing have failed to do their part to pressure China to ensure peace in Darfur.

The group issued a report card Monday grading the companies' responses to the Darfur crisis after asking them to take a stand. Sixteen out of 19 sponsors failed or got Ds, including Microsoft, Panasonic and Visa. General Electric earned the highest grade, a C-plus.

Ellen Freudenheim conducted research for the project. Speaking to reporters via teleconference, she said the majority of Olympic sponsors are condoning the violence in Darfur by staying silent.

"If there's a genocide and you're involved with a government that's actively enabling that genocide, you, too, are silently complicit if you don't at least raise the issue," she said.

Dream for Darfur graded the companies using a range of criteria, including whether they contacted China or the International Olympic Committee, donated aid to Darfur or appointed a point person on Darfur.

Several companies, including Visa and General Electric, sent response letters to the campaign saying they found it inappropriate to take action. They said the correct platform for the Darfur issue is at a United Nations and government level.

But American actress Mia Farrow, chair of Dream for Darfur's advisory board, said businesses are responsible, too.

"This is blood money," she said. "You know, I think they should step up and do the right thing. And they have a unique position here with the Olympic games, a unique point of leverage. And I think unless they use it to their utmost, then they will have failed in a profound, profound way. Then shame on them."

Dream for Darfur has been calling on Beijing to use its influence in Khartoum to end the bloodshed in Darfur. Four years of violence in the region have claimed more than 200,000 lives and displaced about 2.5 million people.

China is a major buyer of Sudan's oil and supplies arms to its military. It is also a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and has resisted imposing harsh economic sanctions on Khartoum. Beijing denies it is protecting Sudan and says it is helping to resolve the Darfur crisis.

Last Saturday, more than 100 Chinese engineers arrived in Darfur to build roads and bridges and dig wells to prepare the region for a U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force to be deployed early next year. The group is part of a team of more than 300 engineers China says it has committed to the peace effort.