Archive for the ‘free press’ Category

China Settles Trade Dispute Over Media Access

November 13, 2008

China agreed on Thursday to loosen restrictions on foreign news and information providers inside the country, settling a trade dispute with the United States, the European Union and Canada.

The agreement, which was signed in Geneva, allows international news and information agencies, like Bloomberg, Dow Jones & Company and Thomson Reuters, to more freely compete and sell their services inside China, where government controls were tightened in 2006.

The United States and European Union had filed a case against China at the World Trade Organization in March arguing that China unfairly required foreign news and financial information providers to be licensed by the Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese state-controlled entity that serves as the official outlet for the Communist Party and also a competitor of the foreign news companies. Canada later filed its own complaint against China.

According to the settlement, China agreed to remove the requirement that financial news providers be licensed by Xinhua and instead will set up an independent regulatory agency to oversee all financial news and information providers.

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/14/business
/media/14media.html

Obama Election Sparks Discussion of Race, Leaders Other Lands

November 12, 2008
A Tehran news weekly was shut down by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last week after featuring President-elect Barack Obama on its front cover and asking the question, “Why doesn’t Iran have an Obama?”
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Fox News
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The news magazine Shahrvand-e Emrouz [Today’s Citizen] went too far for the hardline president, who quickly had Iran’s Press Supervisory Board ban the publication, the Times of London reported.

The closure of the propular reformist weekly suggests that Ahmadinejad is determined to silence his critics as he prepares for elections next June that could hand him a second-four year term.

The Iranian media has blamed numerous problems in recent weeks on Ahmadinejad. His expansionary budget is blamed for rampant inflation, oil prices have plummeted, aides have admitted that he suffers from strain and exhaustion, and an embarrassing forgery scandal claimed the scalp of his interior minister last week, the Times reported.

This week, however, Ahmadinejad collected support from some newspapers for his message of congratulations to Obama, which several newspaper commentaries on Tuesday presented an important opportunity.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attends an official ...

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi
Read the rest:
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,449945,00.html
 
 Could Britain Have a Black PM?

From the BBC

Now the US has elected its first black president, how long until the UK has a black or Asian prime minister?

 

When Barack Obama claimed that his story could only have happened in America, he might have been looking across the Atlantic for evidence.

The odds of a black or Asian person taking the keys to 10 Downing Street any time soon are slim.

Tony Blair acknowledged as much in 2001, when he suggested the US was ahead of the UK in having people from ethnic minorities occupying some of the top political posts.

Mr Blair was mindful of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice at the heart of the White House, but probably hadn’t even heard of Obama.

Read the rest:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7714056.stm

 

 

 

America: Freedom Really Matters

November 2, 2008

My son and I are on ground where one of my heroes — the legendary Joe Foss, U.S. Marine, America’s leading ace in aerial combat, Medal of Honor recipient, mentor and friend — once stood beside me. We’re hunting — exercising our Second Amendment right “to keep and bear Arms.” We will be back home in time to vote in hopes that this right of the people won’t be infringed. But I wonder.
TR Buckskin Tiffany Knife.jpg
Above: President Theodore Roosevelt
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By Oliver North
The Washington Times

Last week in Ohio, the Obama campaign suggested that Americans need a “second Bill of Rights.” The idea — not a new one for liberals — came this time from Rep. Marcy Kaptur as she introduced Sen. Obama at a rally in Toledo. Kaptur enthusiastically endorsed the initiative, first proffered by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jan. 11, 1944. Obama said nothing to disabuse his enthusiastic followers of the notion. But it was a bad idea when FDR advocated it, and it is now.

President Roosevelt made the proposal in his State of the Union address — delivered over the radio from the White House instead of in person before Congress. He claimed that he had the flu and that his doctors would not permit him “to go up to the Capitol.” The nation was then — as we are today — at war. And FDR, the “indispensable leader,” already was preparing for his fourth presidential campaign.

In promoting his new “Bill of Rights,” Roosevelt observed that we already enjoyed “certain inalienable political rights — among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.” He then said, “They were our rights to life and liberty.” Notably, FDR used the past tense and omitted the Second Amendment in its entirety — no small lapse when nearly 16 million Americans were under arms.

Unfortunately, the idea that our original Bill of Rights is inadequate — or even archaic — has achieved new currency with liberals. In enumerating his abbreviated version of the first 10 amendments to our Constitution, FDR described our rights as “political” and insufficient. The Framers saw them as God-given and a sacred trust to deliver unabridged to future generations.

Therein is the challenge in next week’s elections. The mainstream media and the polls predict a rout to the left. Does that mean Congress would have free rein to resurrect FDR’s “second Bill of Rights”? And if so, what then happens to the real Bill of Rights, first handed into our care Dec. 15, 1791?

The practitioners of politics — and those who write and speak about it — claim that these matters are secondary to “pocketbook issues.” I was told this week, “Nobody in America cares about that ‘constitutional stuff’ right now with all that’s gone wrong with our economy.” If that’s true, we’re in more serious trouble than my 401(k).

Perhaps I have spent too much of my life with young Americans who sacrificed the comforts of home and the company of loved ones to take on the responsibility of protecting the rest of us. They didn’t sign up to fight for gold or colonial conquest or “the economy.” The soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines I have been covering for Fox News Channel in Mesopotamia, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf and the Philippine archipelago volunteered to defend us and protect our liberty from those who had done us grievous harm.

They raised their right hands and took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” They understand what it means to “bear true faith and allegiance.” Most of them have seen parts of the world where there is no freedom, and they know that freedom is an idea worth fighting for, preferably at a great distance from home.

Thanks to the courage and sacrifice of young Americans in uniform and those who preceded them, foreign adversaries do not immediately threaten our liberty. But freedom certainly is at risk here at home if our elected leaders and appointed judges believe that our essential freedoms are “political rights.” If that is true, then politicians and the judges they appoint can abridge, alter or eliminate them.

The extraordinary dedication, commitment and tenacity of American men and women in uniform serving the cause of freedom inspire me. Their bravery and perseverance on battlefields around the world should remind us all that freedom is fragile and must be defended to flourish. The Bill of Rights, including the Second Amendment, did not come to us gratis or without obligation.

We are blessed in America that we can fend for freedom with ballots instead of bullets. Our charge is to elect those who will deliver those freedoms intact and undiminished to those who follow us, as my son and I now follow in the footsteps of Joe Foss.
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Medal of Honor recipient Joe Foss

Here is the late Joe Foss’ Medal of Honor CITATION:

For outstanding heroism and courage above and beyond the call of duty as Executive Officer of a Marine Fighting Squadron, at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. Engaging in almost daily combat with the enemy from October 9 to November 19, 1942, Captain Foss personally shot down twenty-three Japanese planes and damaged others so severely that their destruction was extremely probable. In addition, during this period, he successfully led a large number of escort missions, skillfully covering reconnaissance, bombing and photographic planes as well as surface craft. On January 15, 1943, he added three more enemy planes to his already brilliant successes for a record of aerial combat achievement unsurpassed in this war. Boldly searching out an approaching enemy force on January 25, Captain Foss led his eight F4F Marine planes and four Army P-38s into action and, undaunted by tremendously superior numbers, intercepted and struck with such force that four Japanese fighters were shot down and the bombers were turned back without releasing a single bomb. His remarkable flying skill, inspiring leadership and indomitable fighting spirit were distinctive factors in the defense of strategic American positions on Guadalcanal.

Washington Times Excluded From Obama Campaign Aircraft: And Responds

November 1, 2008

Editorial
The Washington Times
November 1, 2008
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Reporter Christina Bellantoni of The Washington Times will be kicked off of Barack Obama‘s campaign plane starting Nov. 2, making it much more difficult to cover the candidate during the critical final days of the election. The Obama campaign insists that politics had nothing to do with it. We note that all three newspapers that had reporters booted from the plane — The Times, the New York Post and the Dallas Morning News — endorsed John McCain. An Obama spokesman insists that it is just a coincidence.

Aides to Mr. Obama told us Friday that the decision was made in part in order to accommodate his hometown newspapers, the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, which have not traveled with the candidate very frequently in the past. They also claim that the decision to kick The Washington Times off the Obama plane could not have possibly been due to this newspaper’s endorsement, which was published Tuesday. The Obama campaign insists that it notified Miss Bellantoni on Oct. 25 that it might not have room for her on the plane. Miss Bellantoni protested. Later that day she was told that she could stay on the plane until Friday night. Starting Monday, Miss Bellantoni sought an update about her status each day until Thursday. That afternoon, while covering an Obama rally in Florida, she learned that effective Nov. 2, she would no longer be traveling on Mr. Obama’s campaign plane.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. ... 
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. boards his campaign aircraft at the airport in Columbia, Mo., Friday, Oct. 31, 2008. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Upon learning of that decision, John Solomon, executive editor of The Washington Times, protested the decision to David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager. The decision “unfairly deprives her and this newspaper of the opportunity to cover the final 72 hours of a campaign that she has reported on with distinction from the beginning,” Mr. Solomon wrote. “Christina has traveled routinely with the Obama campaign from the start, pulled many shifts as the campaign pool reporter and been cited across the country for stories that were fair, balanced and insightful.” He also noted that The Times’ vast online readership places it in the Top 20 news sites in the United States. Moreover, Mr. Obama himself has recognized the importance of this newspaper’s work, citing two prominent examples: In June, Mr. Obama wrote a letter citing an investigative project by The Washington Times that highlighted government mistreatment of veterans. In his August acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, Mr. Obama prominently mentioned this newspaper’s interview with former Sen. Phil Gramm, in which he referred to a “mental recession” and a “nation of whiners.” More than a dozen other Democratic speakers also cited that interview, “clearly demonstrating the far-reaching relevance and impact of our news coverage,” Mr. Solomon wrote in an e-mail.

Shortly afterward, Mr. Solomon received a reply from from Anita Dunn, senior adviser and chief communications officer with the Obama campaign, telling him that that the demand for seats on the plane far exceeded supply, and “for logistical reasons, we made the decision not to add a second plane.” Added Mrs. Dunn: “We have a huge amount of respect for the reporting of Christina Bellantoni and this decision is by no means a reflection on her.” In an interview Friday with The Times, Jen Psaki, press spokeswoman for the Obama campaign, reiterated these points and claimed the decision could not have been retaliation for The Times endorsement of Mr. McCain because Miss Bellantoni was notified last Saturday that she might not be able to stay on the plane beyond Oct. 31. Sure.

This argument, however, collapses upon closer examination. For one thing, there is no getting around the fact that all three newspapers kicked off the plane just happened to endorse Mr. McCain. Moreover, Mr. Obama’s supporters have been furious with The Times when it publishes stories that are not favorable to their candidate. One was an Oct. 10 report by Barbara Slavin of The Times about Mr. Obama’s efforts to delay signing an agreement with the United States on the status of U.S. forces in Iraq. Another was a piece by reporter Joseph Curl pointing to Mr. McCain’s role in mobilizing support for the Iraq troop surge, which Mr. Obama opposed. Viewed in this context, the Obama campaign’s decision to remove Miss Bellantoni smacks of being the latest effort by Mr. Obama and his supporters to retaliate against reporters that ask tough questions. After Barbara West, a reporter on WFTV-TV in Orlando, had the temerity to ask some tough questions to Joe Biden, the Obama campaign cancelled an interview with Mr. Biden’s wife, Jill. Obama supporters even called for Miss West’s ouster. After a reporter for KYW-TV in Philadelphia pressed Mr. Biden too forcefully on some matters, the Obama campaign said it would grant no more interviews to the station. When WGN Radio in Chicago announced it would interview Stanley Kurtz, author of several unflattering investigative pieces about Mr. Obama, supporters of the candidate flooded the station with telephone calls and e-mails demanding that Mr. Kurtz not be put on the air. It is a disturbing pattern. If this is how Mr. Obama acts as a candidate, how would he treat the press as president?

Miss Bellantoni doesn’t deserve this shabby treatment and neither does The Times. It would be wiser to resist the impulse to punish those who ask hard questions and wiser still to show more respect for the free exercise of the press.

How Obama’s Ideas Resemble Communist China Policy

October 31, 2008

As China’s Communist-socialist economy moves closer toward capitalism, Senator Barack Obama’s ideas on spreading the wealth from richer toward poorer people sounds remarkably like the older version of China’s socialism.

And just as China tightly controls its state media, the campaign of Barack Obama has now expelled two of the nation’s leading conservative newspapers from the Obama campaign aircraft.

The Washington Times and the New York Post have been told their Obama campaign reporters are no longer welcome on the Obama campaign plane.  This follows an incident which occurred between Obama Vice Presidential running mate and  WFTV’s Barbara West, an Orland anchorwoman.

After Ms. West asked provacative questions of Senator Biden, the TV station was told it would no longer have access to any information from the Obama campaign.

Then we have voter fraud.  In China, the guy picked by the ruling Chinese communist  party wins every ‘election”…. no mater how the vote goes.  Ever hear of ACORN?

But Mr. Obama is unlike China in this regard: to China, unemployment is the most dangerous of evils.

Have you heard Obama talking a lot about jobs?  No…..

Related:
Obama’s Staff Expells Conservative Newpaper Reporters

China’s Worst Nightmare: Unemployment

How free are reporters, the media in China?

October 17, 2008

Rules that gave foreign reporters greater freedom during the Beijing Olympics are due to expire. The BBC asked a range of reporters in China what difference the rules have made to their working lives.

By James Miles
The Economist and the BBC
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“It was mainly a psychological difference, we had been widely flouting the rules before, leaving Beijing to report in the provinces without seeking advance approval as was officially required.

“So when the new regulations were introduced, we were still travelling just as much but without the fear of the knock on the door by the police, without the need to change from hotel to hotel to remain under the radar screen.

“But we were still frequently encountering local officials who either didn’t know or said they didn’t know about the new Olympic regulations or were determined to ignore them.

nervous policeman in Tiananmen Square
Chinese policemen used to be nervous of foreign journalists

“There was one remarkable incident, shortly after the new regulations were introduced early last year, when I went to Henan province.

“As I expected, I was stopped by local officials. But I called the Foreign Ministry in Beijing, and remarkably, the local officials apologised to me and disappeared, leaving me with startled villagers who said this was the first time they’d ever managed to openly speak with foreign journalists.

“But since then, I’ve encountered the same kind of difficulties as before the regulations. A few days ago, I was out in the western region of Xinjiang, and was detained for several hours by local police.

“There are key parts in the country that remain very difficult to get into, and the most obvious one is Tibet. Tibet wasn’t mentioned specifically in the Olympic regulations, in theory they apply to the whole of China, but orally Chinese officials said Tibet remained excluded and we still had to seek permission.”

Read the rest:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7676013.stm

Chinese paramilitary policeman

Vietnam Convicts, Imprisons “Whisle Blowing” Reporter Who Found Government Corruption

October 15, 2008

by Frank Zeller

HANOI (AFP) – Vietnam jailed a reporter for two years Wednesday for his coverage of state corruption in a court case that has sent a chill through the communist country‘s media industry.

Reporter Nguyen Viet Chien from the Thanh Nien newspaper at ... 
Reporter Nguyen Viet Chien from the Thanh Nien newspaper at Hanoi’s people court. Chien was sentenced to two years in prison for his coverage of a major state corruption scandal and also jailed his police source for one year.(AFP)

The Hanoi court also imprisoned for one year a senior police officer who had provided information on the graft scandal to the media, but it allowed a police general and a second journalist to walk free.

The jailed reporter, Nguyen Viet Chien, almost three years ago helped pry open the graft case, which centred on a transport ministry unit whose officials had squandered foreign aid on gambling and high living.

The revelations led to a series of arrests and moved anti-corruption to the centre of government policy, while Vietnam earned international plaudits for allowing its state-controlled media unprecedented freedoms.

Then, in May of this year, police arrested two of the journalists who led the coverage on the explosive case — Chien of the Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper, and Nguyen Van Hai of the Tuoi Tre (Youth) daily.

The deputy editors of the two popular papers were replaced and the Communist Party‘s ideology committee has since revoked the press credentials of several more journalists who had jumped to their colleagues’ defence.

On Wednesday, the Hanoi People’s Court found both journalists guilty of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state.”

Chien, a 56-year-old award winning journalist who maintained his innocence throughout the two-day trial, was sentenced to two years in prison, a term that was backdated to the day of his arrest.

Hai, 33, who admitted to some unintended errors in his reporting and at one stage during the hearings broke down in tears, received a more lenient two-year non-custodial term and was allowed to walk free.

The court also convicted the two senior police officers who had given information to the press during the 2005-2006 investigation into the emerging graft scandal in the so-called Project Management Unit (PMU) 18.

Retired police General Pham Xuan Quac, 62, who headed the investigation, received only an official warning, but Lieutenant Colonel Dinh Van Huynh, 50, was sentenced to one year’s jail, also including time served.

Prosecutors argued that the journalists’ reports contained errors and bias and had tarnished the image of officials, party cadres, Vietnam and its leadership, ahead of a five-yearly party congress in early 2006.

The judge, in sentencing, reiterated the prosecution case that “hostile forces, reactionaries and political opportunists” had taken advantage of the scandal to attack Vietnam’s state and party leadership while “stirring up activities to disturb security and order” ahead of the party meeting.

Chien said that until his arrest he had never received a reprimand, defamation suit or complaint from a reader.

“When PMU 18 was discovered, the whole political system of this country was focused on the issue,” he added.

The scandal led to the 2006 resignation of then transport minister Dao Dinh Binh and the arrest of his deputy, Nguyen Viet Tien, while eight PMU 18 officials were later jailed for illegal gambling and corruption.

The deputy minister has since been freed and cleared of all charges.

Foreign diplomats and correspondents were allowed to follow the two-day court proceedings via closed-circuit television, while many more Vietnamese journalists waited on the street outside the court house.

Media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has labelled the trial the state’s “revenge” against two “daring journalists who revealed embarrassing cases and brought greater freedom to the Vietnamese press.”

“It is an insult to justice,” RSF said. “The trial is at the epicentre of an earthquake that has destroyed the still fragile basis of a more independent press wanting to play its role of challenging established authority.”

Vietnam journalists on trial for exposing state corruption

October 14, 2008

by Frank Zeller

HANOI (AFP) – Vietnam on Tuesday put on trial two reporters who helped expose state corruption, in a case seen as a test on the limits of media freedom in the communist country.

A man sits reading a newspaper in downtown Hanoi on October ... 
A man sits reading a newspaper in downtown Hanoi on October 3. Vietnam on Tuesday put on trial two reporters who helped expose state corruption in a case seen as a test of media freedoms in the communist country.(AFP/File/Hoang Dinh Nam)

The two newspaper journalists each face up to seven years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state” in the Hanoi People’s Court hearing.

They helped expose a major graft scandal in a transport ministry unit, known as PMU 18, where officials pilfered development funds meant for roads and bridges and bet much of it on European football.

The aggressive reporting in a country where all media, and the courts, remain under the control of the one-party state was praised by foreign observers and spurred state promises of a major anti-corruption drive.

The scandal led to the resignation in 2006 of then transport minister Dao Dinh Binh and the arrest of his deputy, Nguyen Viet Tien, while eight PMU 18 officials were jailed last year for illegal gambling and corruption.

The case, however, took an unexpected turn when Tien was freed from prison last October and cleared of all charges in March.

In May police arrested the two journalists — Nguyen Van Hai, 33, of the Tuoi Tre (Youth) daily, and Nguyen Viet Chien, 56, of the Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper — initially accusing them of “abuse of power.”

On trial with them are two senior police officers accused of feeding them information….

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081014/wl_asia_afp/vietnam
justicemediacorruption_081014072610

China Falls Short on Vows for Olympics

April 21, 2008

By Jill Drew and Maureen Fan
The Washington Post
Monday, April 21, 2008; Page A01
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BEIJING, April 20 — China has spent billions of dollars to fulfill its commitment to stage a grand Olympics. Athletes will compete in world-class stadiums. New highways and train lines crisscross Beijing. China built the world’s largest airport terminal to welcome an expected 500,000 foreign visitors. Thousands of newly planted trees and dozens of colorful “One World, One Dream” billboards line the main roads of a spruced-up capital. The security system has impressed the FBI and Interpol.
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But beneath the shimmer and behind the slogan, China is under criticism for suppressing Tibetan protests, sealing off large portions of the country to foreign reporters, harassing and jailing dissidents and not doing enough to curb air pollution. It has not lived up to a pledge in its Olympic action plan, released in 2002, to “be open in every aspect,” and a constitutional amendment adopted in 2004 to recognize and protect human rights has not shielded government critics from arrest.
A haze of pollution hangs over China's National Stadium, known as the bird's nest, the main venue for the Beijing Olympics beginning Aug. 8.
A haze of pollution hangs over China’s National Stadium, known as the bird’s nest, the main venue for the Beijing Olympics beginning Aug. 8. (By Greg Baker – Associated Press)
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The two realities show that when China had to build something new to fulfill expectations, it has largely delivered. But in areas that touch China’s core interests, Olympic pledges come second.
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“To ensure a successful Olympic Games, the government did make some technical and strategic efforts to improve the environment, human rights and press freedom. They did make some progress. But in these three areas, there’s a long, long way to go,” said Cheng Yizhong, an editor who tracks China’s Olympic preparations.
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With the Games less than four months away, the International Olympic Committee is scrambling to nail down specifics of how China will treat criticism of its actions during the event. Pressed this month, IOC President Jacques Rogge clarified that athletes would be allowed to speak freely in Beijing’s Olympic venues, calling it an “absolute” human right.
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“I can’t help but feel cynical about all this,” said David Wallechinsky, an Olympic historian, who said the IOC should have been more forceful with China earlier. “What are they going to do, take away the Games?”

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/20/AR2008042002044.html?hpid=topnews

The Real China and the Olympics

April 5, 2008

By Hu Jia and teng Biao
The Washington Post
Saturday, April 5, 2008; Page A15 

This week, a Beijing court sentenced human rights activist Hu Jia to 3 1/2 years in prison for subverting state authority and to one additional year’s loss of his “political rights.” He was arrested in part for co-authoring, with Teng Biao, an open letter on human rights. Below, The Post printsHuman Rights Watch‘s translation of the Sept. 10, 2007, letter.

On July 13th 2001, when Beijing won the right to host the 2008 Olympic Games, the Chinese government promised the world it would improve China‘s human rights record. In June 2004, Beijing announced its Olympic Games slogan, “One World, One Dream.” From their inception in 1896, the modern Olympic Games have always had as their mission the promotion of human dignity and world peace.

Chinese President Hu Jintao lights a cauldron with the Olympic ...
Chinese President Hu Jintao lights a cauldron with the Olympic torch at a ceremony in March 2008. A special envoy of Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, called on Beijing Thursday to cancel plans to carry the Olympic torch through Tibet, saying it was a “provocative” move after the Chinese crackdown of protests in the Himalayan territory.(AFP/File/Peter Parks)

China and the world expected to see the Olympic Games bring political progress to the country. Is Beijing keeping its promises? Is China improving its human rights record?

When you come to the Olympic Games in Beijing, you will see skyscrapers, spacious streets, modern stadiums and enthusiastic people. You will see the truth, but not the whole truth, just as you see only the tip of an iceberg. You may not know that the flowers, smiles, harmony and prosperity are built on a base of grievances, tears, imprisonment, torture and blood.

We are going to tell you the truth about China. We believe that for anyone who wishes to avoid a disgraceful Olympics, knowing the truth is the first step. Fang Zheng, an excellent athlete who holds two national records for the discus throw at China’s Special Sport Games, has been deprived of the opportunity to participate in the 2008 Paralympics because he has become a living testimony to the June 4, 1989[,] massacre.
Zeng Jinyan -- the wife of human rights activist Hu Jia -- weeps ... 
Zeng Jinyan — the wife of human rights activist Hu Jia — weeps as she speaks to the media outside a courthouse in Beijing. Hu Jia was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison this week by China.
(AFP/File/Teh Eng Koon)

That morning, in Tiananmen Square, his legs were crushed by a tank while he was rescuing a fellow student. In April 2007, the Ministry of Public Security issued an internal document secretly strengthening a political investigation which resulted in forbidding Olympics participation by 43 types of people from 11 different categories, including dissidents, human rights defenders, media workers, and religious participants. The Chinese police never made the document known to either the Chinese public or the international community.

Huge investment in Olympic projects and a total lack of transparency have facilitated serious corruption and widespread bribery. Taxpayers are not allowed to supervise the use of investment amounting to more than $40 billion. Liu Zhihua, formerly in charge of Olympic construction and former deputy mayor of Beijing, was arrested for massive embezzlement.

Chinese activist Hu Jia, seen here in 2007, was jailed for three-and-a-half ...
Chinese activist Hu Jia, seen here in 2007, was jailed for three-and-a-half years for subversion. Rights groups said the charge is part of China’s campaign to silence dissent before the Olympics.(AFP/File/Frederic J. Brown)

To clear space for Olympic-related construction, thousands of civilian houses have been destroyed without their former owners being properly compensated. Brothers Ye Guozhu and Ye Guoqiang were imprisoned for a legal appeal after their house was forcibly demolished. Ye Guozhu has been repeatedly handcuffed and shackled, tied to a bed and beaten with electric batons. During the countdown to the Olympic Games he will continue to suffer from torture in Chaobei Prison in Tianjin.

It has been reported that over 1.25 million people have been forced to move because of Olympic construction; it was estimated that the figure would reach 1.5 million by the end of 2007. No formal resettlement scheme is in place for the over 400,000 migrants who have had their dwelling places demolished. Twenty percent of the demolished households are expected to experience poverty or extreme poverty. In Qingdao, the Olympic sailing city, hundreds of households have been demolished and many human rights activists as well as “civilians” have been imprisoned. Similar stories come from other Olympic cities such as Shenyang, Shanghai and Qinhuangdao.

In order to establish the image of civilized cities, the government has intensified the ban against — and detention and forced repatriation of — petitioners, beggars and the homeless. Some of them have been kept in extended detention in so-called shelters or have even been sent directly to labor camps. Street vendors have suffered brutal confiscation of their goods by municipal agents. On July 20, 2005, Lin Hongying, a 56-year-old woman farmer and vegetable dealer, was beaten to death by city patrols in Jiangsu. On November 19, 2005, city patrols in Wuxi beat 54-year-old bicycle repairman Wu Shouqing to death. In January 2007, petitioner Duan Huimin was killed by Shanghai police. On July 1, 2007, Chen Xiaoming, a Shanghai petitioner and human rights activist, died of an untreated illness during a lengthy detention period. On August 5, 2007, right before the one-year Olympics countdown, 200 petitioners were arrested in Beijing.

China has consistently persecuted human rights activists, political dissidents and freelance writers and journalists. The blind activist Chen Guangcheng, recipient of the 2007 Ramon Magsaysay Award and named in 2006 by Time Magazine as one of the most influential 100 people shaping our world, is still serving his sentence of four years and three months for exposing the truth of forced abortion and sterilization. The government refused to give him the Braille books and the radio that his relatives and friends brought to Linyi prison in Shandong. Chen has been beaten while serving his sentence. On August 24, 2007, Chen’s wife, Yuan Weijing, was kidnapped by police at the Beijing airport while waiting to fly to the Philippines to receive the Ramon Magsaysay Award on behalf of her husband. On August 13, 2007, activist Yang Chunlin was arrested in Heilongjiang and charged with subversion of state power “for initiating the petition ‘Human Rights before Olympics.’ ”

China still practices literary inquisition and holds the world record for detaining journalists and writers, as many as several hundred since 1989, according to incomplete statistics. As of this writing, 35 Chinese journalists and 51 writers are still in prison. Over 90 percent were arrested or tried after Beijing’s successful bid for the Olympics in July 2001. For example, Shi Tao, a journalist and a poet, was sentenced to ten years in prison because of an e-mail sent to an overseas website. Dr. Xu Zerong, a scholar from Oxford University who researched the Korean War, was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment for “illegally providing information abroad.” Qingshuijun [Huang Jinqiu], a freelance writer, was sentenced to a 12-year term for his online publications. Some writers and dissidents are prohibited from going abroad; others from returning to China.

 

Every year in mainland China, countless websites are closed, blogs deleted, sensitive words filtered. Many websites hosted abroad are blocked. Overseas radio and television programs are interfered with or strictly prohibited. Although the Chinese government has promised media freedom for foreign journalists for 22 months, before, during, and after the Beijing Olympics, and ending on October 17, 2008, an FCCC [Foreign Correspondents Club in China] survey showed that 40 percent of foreign correspondents have experienced harassment, detention or an official warning during news gathering in Beijing and other areas. Some reporters have complained about repeated violent police interference at the time they were speaking with interviewees. Most seriously, Chinese interviewees usually become vulnerable as a result. In June 2006, Fu Xiancai was beaten and paralyzed after being interviewed by German media. In March 2007, Zheng Dajing was beaten and arrested after being interviewed by a British TV station.

Religious freedom is still under repression. In 2005, a Beijing pastor, Cai Zhuohua, was sentenced to three years for printing Bibles. Zhou Heng, a house church pastor in Xinjiang, was charged with running an “illegal operation” for receiving dozens of boxes of Bibles. From April to June 2007, China expelled over 100 suspected U.S., South Korean, Canadian, Australian, and other missionaries. Among them were humanitarian workers and language educators who had been teaching English in China for 15 years. During this so-called Typhoon 5 campaign, authorities took aim at missionary activities so as to prevent their recurrence during the Olympics.

On September 30, 2006, Chinese soldiers opened fire on 71 Tibetans who were escaping to Nepal. A 17-year-old nun died and a 20-year-old man was severely injured. Despite numerous international witnesses, the Chinese police insisted that the shooting was in self-defense. One year later, China tightened its control over Tibetan Buddhism. A September 1, 2007, regulation requires all reincarnated lamas to be approved by Chinese authorities, a requirement that flagrantly interferes with the tradition of reincarnation of living Buddhas as practiced in Tibet for thousands of years. In addition, Chinese authorities still ban the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet and a world-renowned pacifist, from returning to Tibet.

Since 1999, the government has banned many religious beliefs such as Falungong and the Three Servants. Their followers have experienced extremely cruel and planned persecutions. Many died from abuse, suffered torture, brainwashing, imprisonment and labor camp internment for persisting in their faith, possessing religious books, making DVDs and writing articles to expose the truth of the persecution.

 

China has the highest death penalty rate in the world. Execution statistics are treated as “state secrets.” However, experts estimate that 8,000-10,000 people are sentenced to death in China every year, among them not only criminals and economic convicts, but totally innocent citizens, such as Nie Shubin, Teng Xingshan, Cao Haixin and Hugejiletu, whose innocence was proven only after they were already dead.

Another eight innocent farmers, Chen Guoqing, He Guoqiang, Yang Shiliang, Zhu Yanqiang, Huang Zhixiang, Fang Chunping, Cheng Fagen and Cheng Lihe, who confessed their “crimes” after being cruelly tortured by the police, have been sentenced to death and are currently held in prisons in Hebei [province] and in Jingdezhen [in Jiangxi province].

Torture is very common in China’s detention centers, labor camps and prisons. Torture methods include electric shock, burning, use of electric needles, beating and hanging, sleep deprivation, forced chemical injection causing nerve damage, and piercing the fingers with needles. Every year, there are reported cases of Chinese citizens being disabled or killed by police torture.

Labor camps are still retained as a convenient Chinese system which allows the police to lock up citizens without trial for up to four years. The detention system is another practice that the police favor, freeing them to detain citizens for six months to two years. Dissidents and human rights activists are particularly vulnerable targets and are often sent to labor camps, detention centers or even mental hospitals by authorities who want to simplify legal procedures and mislead the media.
China has the world’s largest secret police system, the Ministry of National Security (guo an) and the Internal Security Bureau (guo bao) of the Ministry of Public Security, which exercise power beyond the law. They can easily tap telephones, follow citizens, place them under house arrest, detain them and impose torture. On June 3, 2004, the Chinese secret police planted drugs on Chongqing dissident Xu Wanping and later sentenced him to 12 years’ imprisonment for “subversion of state power.”

 

Chinese citizens have no right to elect state leaders, local government officials or representatives. In fact, there has never been free exercise of election rights in township-level elections. Wuhan resident Sun Bu’er, a member of the banned political party the Pan-Blue Alliance, was brutally beaten in September 2006 for participating as an independent candidate during an election of county-level people’s congress representatives. Mr. Sun disappeared on March 23, 2007.

China continues to cruelly discriminate against its rural population. According to the Chinese election law, a farmer’s right to vote is worth one quarter of that of an urban resident. In June 2007, the Shanxi kiln scandal was exposed by the media. Thousands of 8- [to-]13[-]year-old trafficked children had been forced to labor in illegal kilns, almost all with local government connections. Many of the children were beaten, tortured and even buried alive.

The Chinese judiciary still illegally forbids any HIV/AIDS lawsuits against government officials responsible for the tragedy. AIDS sufferers and activists have been constantly harassed by the secret police.

The Chinese government has been selling arms and weapons to Darfur and other African regions to support ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The Chinese authorities have forcibly repatriated North Korean refugees, knowing that they would be sent to labor camps or executed once back home. This significantly contravenes China’s accession to the “Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees” and the “Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.”

 

· Please be aware that the Olympic Games will be held in a country where there are no elections, no freedom of religion, no independent courts, no independent trade unions; where demonstrations and strikes are prohibited; where torture and discrimination are supported by a sophisticated system of secret police; where the government encourages the violation of human rights and dignity, and is not willing to undertake any of its international obligations.

 

· Please consider whether the Olympic Games should coexist with religious persecution[,] labor camps, modern slavery, identity discrimination, secret police and crimes against humanity.

 

As the Beijing Olympics slogan says, we live in “one world” with “one dream.” We hope that one day the Chinese people will be able to share universal human rights, democracy and peace with people from all around the world. However, we can see that the Chinese government obviously is not yet prepared to honor its promise. As a matter of fact, the preparations for the Olympics have provided the perfect excuse for the Chinese government to restrict civil liberties and suppress human rights!

We do not want China to be contained or isolated from the rest of the world. We believe that only by adhering to the principles of human rights and through open dialogue can the world community pressure the Chinese government to change. Ignoring these realities and tolerating barbaric atrocities in [the] name of the Beijing Olympics will disgrace the Olympic Charter and shake the foundations of humanity. Human rights improvement requires time, but we should at least stop China’s human rights situation from deteriorating. Having the Olympics hosted in a country where human dignity is trampled on will not honor its people or the Olympic Games.

We sincerely hope that the Olympic Games will bring the values of peace, equality, freedom and justice to 1.3 billion Chinese citizens. We pray that the Olympics will be held in a free China. We must push for the 2008 Olympics to live up to the Olympic Charter[,] and we must advocate for the realization of “one world” with “one human rights dream.” We believe that only an Olympic Games true to the Olympic Charter can promote China’s democratic progress, world peace and development.

We firmly hold to the belief that there can be no true Olympic Games without human rights and dignity. For China and for the Olympics, human rights must be upheld!