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Media Watchdog Calls for More Pressure on China Over Human Rights


With just five months to go before the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, there has been increasing scrutiny of China's foreign policy as well as its human rights record. The media watchdog group, Reporters Without Borders has issued a statement saying it has not seen any evidence that human rights and freedom of expression have improved in China. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report from London.

Reporters Without Borders says that despite international pressure, there is no indication that China has improved its human rights record, including its treatment of the media.

Reporters Without Borders spokesman Vincent Brossel told VOA the international community must keep up the pressure. He says China does want to improve its image ahead of the Olympic Games and, he says, pressure has had some positive results on other issues, such as the Chinese government's support of Sudan in the case of Darfur.

"We feel that there is a way to put pressure on China and we saw it very clearly in the case of Darfur because there were the criticism they (China) had to send a special envoy to Sudan and they obviously had to change a little bit their position," he said.

Brossel says pressure from world leaders who are going to be at the Olympic Games, such as U.S. President Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, could have an impact.

In its statement, Reporters Without Borders says those inside China who are using the Olympics to focus attention on human rights in the country, are paying a heavy price. The statement cites the case of activist Hu Jia, who remains in detention in Beijing on charges of subversion against the state while his wife, blogger Zeng Jinyan, and their baby daughter are subject to constant police surveillance.

At least four other activists are being held for calling for more freedom before the games. Yang Chunlin, who started the "We want human rights, not the Olympic Games" campaign, faces a heavy sentence after his recent trial. Two of his associates were sentenced in January to reeducation through labor.

However, Brossel says that despite the lack of progress on human rights, his organization is not calling for a boycott of the games because some of the people attending will publicize the issue. "We are very clear on this also that we don't call for the boycott because thousands of journalists and people will go to China is a positive thing," he said.

Reporters Without Borders also calls on China to release imprisoned journalists and Internet users, end censorship of news Web sites and stop jamming international radio stations.

Recently, Hollywood film director Steven Spielberg quit as artistic advisor to the Summer Olympics because of China's policy in Sudan. The Chinese embassy in London did not respond to VOA requests for an interview on the issue. However, in a government statement issued following Spielberg's resignation, the Chinese foreign ministry said the human rights campaign "violates the Olympic spirit of separating sports from politics."

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