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Does China deserve a 'fair go'? What has the IOC achieved?

By Arthur Thomas - posted Friday, 18 April 2008

Beijing media highlights China's commitment to achieving its goal of "maintaining a harmonious society in the run-up to the Olympics".

From economic growth and engineering points of view, none can fault China where new technologies and imaginative architecture have created a futuristic skyline and venue structures surrounded by lush green landscaping.

However, access to clean water, clean air, and freedom of religion and expression are all basic human rights, key IOC humanity commitments that China has failed miserably to achieve.


Human rights

The Tibet uprising and China's focus on Xinjiang terrorist activities effectively diverted world attention from human rights abuse throughout China. Beijing's spin blames religious activism caused by Buddhists and the Muslims acting without just cause. The abuse is not restricted to Tibet and Xinjiang. Nor is it to the North Korean refugees herded back across the border, facing punishment or death, or preyed upon by ruthless employers or "refugee entrepreneurs".

Human rights abuse exists throughout China and comprises two key sectors - religion and the rural poor. Religion confronts the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) policy under which the people unreservedly acknowledge the State before any other. Religion is subservient to state law and appointment of church hierarchy is a state responsibility: Beijing flexed its muscle with the Holy See by appointing its own Bishop.

The CCP is "comfortable" with conventional Christianity and state controlled churches. What really scares the CCP however, are Han Chinese, and especially educated Han Chinese, joining a religion that places belief above the state. This is the reason for the severe crackdowns, not only on the Falun Gong, but smaller "Christian house churches" where the arrests, beatings, imprisonments and even deaths are unreported regular events.

Growing unrest among the rural poor is fuelled by rampant official corruption ranging from theft of farmland for development, diversion of compensation for loss of land, dumping of toxic waste from factories on farmland and pollution of rivers and underground water by factories built on "stolen" farmland.

Minimal if any compensation is paid for crops, fields, roads, wells, irrigation, and homes destroyed by infrastructure works. China's shortage of farmland sees families "relocated" onto less fertile land where neighbours are hostile towards the new arrivals who increase demand on "their" land. Unfettered official use of local and the Peoples Armed Police, and even the PLA to quell demonstrations against abuse combine with Beijing's lack of recognition and punishment for the perpetrators only exacerbates the growing resentment.


One IOC commitment was that foreign journalists within China's borders would be free to report during a clearly defined time period - January 1, 2008 to October 17, 2008.


Contrary to State media reports of "greater access of foreign media", a poll showed 95 per cent of foreign journalists claim that repression has in fact increased: 157 reported incidents cite detention, harassment, intimidation, and confiscation of work. Sixty-five foreign journalists claimed active interference by authorities.

Current bans are imposed on reporting on land disputes, anti-pollution protests, and HIV-AIDS as well as "media employees who can harm the Olympic Games".

While the West enjoys open access to the Internet, China's 30,000+ "online police" replace "subversive material" in China with error messages. Microsoft, Google and Yahoo assist this censorship by overcoming difficulties China cannot. Widely available free software breaks the censorship before the cycle repeats itself. During that time, human rights cells and individuals across China gain uncensored access to the outside world.

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About the Author

Arthur Thomas is retired. He has extensive experience in the old Soviet, the new Russia, China, Central Asia and South East Asia.

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