China - 2008 Olympic games - France urged to support Games ceremony boycott as new head of Council of Europe

    Reporters Without Borders unfurls huge "handcuffs banner" outside Council
    headquarters in Brussels

    MONTREAL, June 19 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders called today
on France, as new president of the Council of Europe, and its European
partners to say they would boycott the Olympic Games opening ceremony in
Beijing on 8 August.
    Members of the worldwide press freedom organisation unfurled a giant
100 sq.metre banner showing the Olympic rings as handcuffs across the front of
a building opposite the Brussels headquarters of the Council, which began its
new session today.
    "Threatening to boycott the ceremony may be the only way to get concrete
results," it said. "If Europe does not take a stand, the Chinese government
will be able to dismiss future European Union demands to improve human rights.
The Olympic flame will be passing through the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, in a few
days time and Europe's political leaders will win respect by firmly calling
now for greater freedom of expression in China. Repression of journalists
there has not diminished and well-known dissident and blogger Huang Qi has
just been arrested again. It is urgent for Europe to speak up.
    "French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said clearly that he will not
attend the ceremony unless talks resume between the government and
representatives of the Dalai Lama. The situation is deadlocked and China
rejected the recent United States and EU joint call for sincere talks about
Tibet as interference in its internal affairs. Beijing also refuses to allow
foreign journalists to visit Tibet and the neighbouring Xinjiang autonomous
region where mass arrests and "re-education" operations are under way,"
Reporters Without Borders said.
    "The competitors at the Games rightly say it is up the politicians, not
them, to sort out this tricky issue. The Council of Europe must not pass up
this historic chance to create the necessary conditions to extract real
progress from the Chinese government. The ruling Communist Party will not
always be able to get away with answering legitimate demands to free political
prisoners by drumming up nationalistic fervour."
    Reporters Without Borders has for several months been urging a boycott of
the opening ceremony by heads of state and government and members of royal
families. The Polish, Estonian, Austrian and Czech governments have already
agreed not to attend. Most EU states have not yet taken a stand and are
waiting for France to take the lead in the name of Europe.
    Reporters Without Borders is also calling on European institutions to ask
the International Olympic Committee to consider the criteria for allowing
countries to host future Olympic Games and to take account of the local level
of individual liberty, notably freedom of expression.
    About 100 journalists, cyber-dissidents, bloggers and other Internet
users are currently imprisoned in China, with only two months to go before the
Games start. The Chinese government has not kept the promises it made to
improve human rights after Beijing was awarded the 2008 Games in 2001.

For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4188, Fax: (514)

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