MONTREAL, Feb. 7 /CNW Telbec/ - There are just six months left until the
opening of the Beijing Summer Olympics. The world's biggest sports event will
get under way in the Chinese capital on 8 August. The Chinese authorities gave
very specific promises in 2001 in order to win the games for Beijing. They
said the holding of the games would "help improve human rights" and that there
would be "total press freedom" before and during the games.
None of this has happened. About 80 journalists and Internet users are
currently imprisoned in China. Some have been detained since the 1980s. The
government blocks access to thousands of websites and the cyber-police watch
Internet users closely. A total of 180 foreign reporters were arrested,
attacked or threatened in China in 2007.
There are no grounds for claiming that the situation has improved. The
number of journalists imprisoned in China in 2001 was 14. Currently there are
32 journalists and more than 50 cyber-dissidents and Internet users in prison
in China. The overall number of political prisoners runs into the thousands.
The International Olympic Committee and the sponsors of the Olympic Games
meanwhile remain silent, thereby discrediting the Olympic values.
We do no think it is too late to get people released. There was evidence
of this just two days ago, when the Hong Kong-based journalist Ching Cheong
was freed two years before completing a five-year sentence. Some journalists,
many well-known figures and even the authorities in Hong Kong had long been
pressing for his release.
The repression is continuing without any let-up, sidelining all those who
dare to call for concrete improvements before the start of the games. Blogger
Hu Jia, for example, is being held on a charge of "inciting subversion of
state power" despite an international outcry. He is facing the possibility of
a long prison sentence. Human rights activist Wang Guilin, who took part in a
campaign with the slogan "We want human rights, not Olympic Games," has just
been sentenced to 18 months of reeducation through work in northeastern China.
But IOC president Jacques Rogge keeps silent. And the Chinese government
condemns attempts to politicise the games.
Forgotten victims and families
Today, the first day of the Lunar New Year, Reporters Without Borders
would like to draw attention to the wives and families of imprisoned
journalists and cyber-dissidents. As well as the financial problems they must
face, they are often the victims of threats and sanctions. At the moment is
that of Hu Jia's young wife, Zeng Jinyan, who is under house arrest in Beijing
with their three-month-old daughter. Zeng cannot leave their apartment or
communicate with the outside world. One of their friends, Yuan Weijing, the
wife of imprisoned human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng, is permanently watched
by the police and by thugs recruited by the local authorities who recently
threw stones at a German TV crew trying to interview her.
The wives and partners of dissidents often lose their jobs. This has been
the case with the partners of cyber-dissidents Yang Zili (held since 2001) and
Ouyang Yi (held from 2002 to 2004). The wife and son of the publisher Hada,
imprisoned in Inner Mongolia since 1996, have been subjected to all sorts of
harassment. The son, Uiles, even served a two-year prison sentence for
alerting international organisations about his father, who was given a 15-year
jail term. The authorities refuse to give him ID papers as long as he
"continues to create problems."
Protest in Paris
Tomorrow, Parisians will be invited to join Reporters Without Borders in
condemning repression in China. Reporters Without Borders activists will
station themselves in one of Paris' busiest districts at midday and ask
passers-by to let themselves be photographed wearing the "Beijing 2008"
campaign T-shirt, on which the Olympic rings have been turned into handcuffs.
A video about imprisoned journalists will at the same time be shown on a large
Some 30 leading European sports personalities and actors have already
agreed to take part in this campaign by wearing the "Beijing 2008" T-shirt.
Reporters Without Borders hails the announcement on 28 January that
Britain's Prince Charles has decided not to attend the Beijing Olympics
inauguration above all because of the violation of basic freedoms in Tibet,
where free expression is even more restricted. Three Tibetans were given long
prison sentences last year because of reports about repressions they had sent
More information about Reporters Without Borders' campaign:
In Hong Kong : Jan Kot : 852 9800 7641
For further information:
For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)