China rejects critical Amnesty report on human rights abuse

Wed, Jul 30, 2008, 01:00

CHINA:THE CHINESE government has rejected claims in an Amnesty International report that the human rights situation in China has deteriorated in the run-up to its hosting of the Olympic Games, writes Clifford Coonan.

"I hope that Amnesty International can take off the tinted glasses they have been wearing for years and see China in a fair and objective way and do something more constructive," said foreign ministry spokesman Li Jianchao.

China insists human rights are solely a domestic issue and Beijing is prickly when it comes to what it sees as foreign interference in its home affairs. Beijing points to the decision last year to end the system of requiring foreign reporters to get permission before travelling to the provinces as signs of Olympic openness.

However, Amnesty has accused China of backtracking on promises it made to secure the rights to host the games, which start on August 8th. Instead of guaranteeing press freedom and better human rights, activists and petitioners have been rounded up and jailed, journalists detained and many people sent to "re-education through labour" camps.

"We've seen a deterioration in human rights because of the Olympics," said Roseann Rife, Asia-Pacific programme director for Amnesty International.

"Specifically we've seen crackdowns on domestic human rights activists, media censorship and increased use of re-education through labour as a means to clean up Beijing and surrounding areas.

"Unless the authorities make a swift change of direction, the legacy of the Beijing Olympics will not be positive for human rights in China," Ms Rife added.

In the report, Amnesty welcomed China's move last year to restore the Supreme People's Court's role in approving death sentences, which is believed to have reduced the number of executions by taking the decision out of the hands of local courts.

However Amnesty also said Beijing continues to withhold figures on death penalty cases.

Amnesty also took aim at the International Olympic Committee, accusing it of showing a "reluctance" to put pressure on China publicly on its human rights record.