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Amnesty International: Human Rights in China Declining Ahead of Olympics


Amnesty International accuses Chinese authorities of breaking promises to improve the country's human rights situation ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. An Amnesty report, published less than two weeks before the games kick off in Beijing, also says the authorities have betrayed the core values of the Olympics. Tendai Maphosa has more from VOA's London news center.

The Amnesty report says China has fallen far short on some basic human rights principles, citing persecution of human rights activists, detentions without trial and censorship.

Amnesty International spokesman Sam Zarifi says human rights activists, including those whose work is directly linked to the Olympics, are being locked up. Zarifi says the authorities are being overly sensitive to any potential criticism.

"The Chinese government has become so obsessed with projecting an image of stability and harmony that they won't allow any voice of disagreement, however reasonable or peaceful, so we see human rights activists being targeted," Zarifi said. "Even the promise that foreign media would be allowed to report completely freely as has been the case in previous Olympics, that has not been met."

As an example, Zarifi said Chinese authorities have blocked access to Web sites of various news organizations. Access to Amnesty's own Web site has also been blocked. He described the Chinese government's action as an attempt to avoid anything it perceives as vaguely critical.

The Amnesty report says all this flies in the face of promises of new media regulations that were supposed to allow for freer reporting for foreign journalists. It says reporters continue to be prevented from covering sensitive issues, including talking to those who suffer human rights violations. Zarifi says The Foreign Correspondents Club of China, FCCC, has documented approximately 260 incidents of reporting disruptions this year, up from 180 in 2007.

Zarifi says there is still time for China to make changes.

"We are still hopeful that the Chinese government will take some steps, for instance remove restrictions on journalists and release some of the political prisoners," he said. "That would leave a better legacy of human rights for the Olympics."

The report urges world leaders who attend the Games to raise their voices publicly for human rights in China. It cautioned that a failure to do so would send the message that it is acceptable for a government to host the Olympic Games in an atmosphere of repression and persecution.

The Chinese government has denied there is a deterioration of the human rights situation in China, and officials say Western media and human rights organizations should look at China in a more realistic and fair way.

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