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Amnesty highlights Beijing Olympics human rights violations

Amnesty International has produced a report which draws attention to the use of the Olympics as a pretext to extend the use of detention without trial.

According to the report moves to reform or abolish 'Re-education through Labour' - administrative detention without charge or trial - remain stalled, with its use in Beijing being extended in order to 'clean up' the city in time for August 2008. The Beijing police have also recently suggested that another form of detention without trial, 'Compulsory Drug Rehabilitation', may be extended from six months to one year to force drug users to 'give up their addictions before the Olympics'.

Catherine Baber, Deputy Asia Pacific Director at Amnesty International, said

"The new extra layer of judicial review for death sentences and the relaxation of restrictions on foreign journalists are important steps towards better respect for human rights in China.

'Disappointingly, they have been matched by moves to expand detention without trial and 'house arrest' of activists, and by a tightening of controls over domestic media and the Internet.

"The failure to ensure equal rights and freedoms for both foreign and domestic journalists smacks of double standards - China has yet to meet its promise to ensure 'complete media freedom' for the Olympics.

"If the Chinese authorities and the International Olympic Committee are serious about the Olympics having a 'lasting legacy' for China, they should be concerned that the Games are being used as a pretext to entrench and extend forms of detention that have been on China's reform agenda for many years.'

An overriding pre-occupation with 'stability' and 'a good social environment' for the hosting of the Olympics appears to inform this approach. While such concerns are understandable for any country holding such a major international event, policies and practices must be founded on respect for rule of law and human rights, or they risk fuelling further discontent, said Amnesty.

Amnesty International has sent copies of its latest update to the Chinese authorities and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), noting that these issues are directly relevant to Beijing's hosting of the Olympics and key principles in the Olympic Charter, such as 'preservation of human dignity'.

Catherine Baber added:

"The IOC cannot want an Olympics that is tainted with human rights abuses - whether families forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for sports arenas or growing numbers of peaceful activists held under 'house arrest' to stop them drawing attention to human rights issues.'

Regrettably, Amnesty's hopes may well be misplaced. As Games Monitor has already reported, the IOC does not consider human rights are its concern and it has refused to speak out about the eviction of around 1.4 million people to make way for the Olympics or associated projects, despite earlier promising to do so.

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