March 1st 2008


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: The Australian economy a 'house of cards'

EDITORIAL: Timor troubles: the way ahead

CANBERRA OBSERVED: What remains to be done after saying sorry?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Brian Burke and Kevin Rudd cross paths again

ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Economic policy-making in conflict

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Hysteria in the House / US election campaign / "Say sorry" segment / The economy

ISLAM: Uproar over Archbishop of Canterbury's Islam gaffe

AUSTRALIAN HISTORY: Why Australia's Christian heritage matters

HUMAN RIGHTS: The 2008 Olympics and China's Communist regime

TAIWAN: Chen: Almost over, but not out

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Australia and Japan set to draw closer together

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Global warming? It's the coldest winter in decades / Capitalism's enemies within

Reality gap between words and action (letter)

Wentworth's vision for Australian railways (letter)

Thuggery at Brisbane pro-life rally (letter)

The struggling Rudds (letter)

BOOKS: IT'S YOUR TIME YOU'RE WASTING: A teacher's tales of classroom hell, by Frank Chalk

BOOKS: CAPTAIN BLIGH'S OTHER MUTINY, by Stephen Dando-Collins

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HUMAN RIGHTS:
The 2008 Olympics and China's Communist regime


by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, March 1, 2008
Beijing was awarded the 2008 Olympics Games by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2001, on the condition that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would improve its appalling human rights record. Human rights in China, however, have sharply deteriorated in the run-up to the Games, as Peter Westmore recently reported in a speech before an international forum, "Human Rights in China and the 2008 Olympics", held in Taipei on February 21-22.

In this seminar, we are examining the link between the 2008 Olympic Games, to be held within six months, and the Chinese Communist Party.

The Olympic Games have periodically been used for political purposes since the 1936 games were used by the German National Socialist Party to validate Nazi ideology. In 1936, it was done by stage-managed rallies, the construction of massive amphitheatres where events were conducted, an unprecedented use of the media to broadcast the Games, and eye-catching sound-and-light shows to highlight the features of the "new" Germany which, under Hitler, had emerged strongly from the Great Depression. It was a stage-managed spectacular to vindicate the regime.

1936 Berlin Olympics

The Olympic Games in China seem to be set in exactly the same mould. Just as Hitler toned down his anti-Semitism in the run-up to the Berlin Olympics, so Hu Jintao has promised that the Olympic Games will be characterised by understanding, friendship and co-operation between peoples. We should take comfort from the fact that just as courageous and far-sighted people opposed the German Olympic Games in 1936, today we are called on to object to the conduct of the Olympic Games in 2008.

When discussing Beijing's human rights record and the Olympic Games, it is important to understand the background to China's attempts to host the Olympic Games. Normally, human rights considerations are not relevant to the IOC's decision to award the Olympic Games.

China attempted to host the 2000 Olympics, but narrowly lost to Sydney. China's human rights record, particularly in the light of the Tiananmen Square massacre, was an issue in that decision taken in 1993.

Before China was awarded in 2001 the right to host this year's Olympic Games, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) publicly pledged to substantially improve human rights conditions before the Olympic Games, and said the IOC could publicly confirm that the CCP has honoured its pledge.

Just prior to the IOC's decision to award China the Games, Wang Wei, secretary-general of the official Beijing bid committee, said: "We will give the media complete freedom to report when they come to China.... We are confident that the Games coming to China not only promotes our economy but also enhances all social conditions, including education, health and human rights."

The selection process therefore placed an obligation on Beijing to improve human rights, and an obligation on the IOC to monitor developments in China. In fact, during an interview with the BBC in April 2002, IOC President Jacques Rogge made it clear that the IOC would monitor human rights in China. He said: "I said to the Chinese political leaders, the IOC urges you to improve as much as possible human rights, as soon as possible.... I have said we will be in close contact with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and the United Nations, and they will report to us and tell us what they feel....

"The IOC is a responsible organisation, be it in the field of human rights, be it in the field of just logistics and delivering what is necessary to have good games, be it in the field of human rights or any other major issue that would make the Games difficult or impossible for young athletes to participate in, then we will act."

This is the reason why the world community is entitled to expect both improvements in human rights in China, and that the process will be monitored.

It is a sad fact that since then, the IOC has failed completely to monitor human rights developments in China. An Internet search shows that since 2002, human rights organisations have consistently urged the IOC to fulfil its responsibilities, but to no avail.

Last year, the IOC official responsible for Beijing's preparations, Hein Verbruggen, rejected criticism of the IOC, saying, "The way the Games are being used as a platform for groups with political and social agendas is often regrettable."

As a result, it has fallen to other organisations to take up this challenge. Six years ago, in February 2002, Human Rights Watch said: "As the world focuses on the opening of the Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, the international spotlight is also falling on Beijing, where preparations are underway to host the 2008 Summer Games. China's aggressive campaign for those games was accompanied by tightened controls on fundamental freedoms, even as members of the International Olympic Committee and Chinese officials themselves argued that the Games would be good for human rights."

Since then, systematic abuses of human rights in China have continued unabated, while China has hidden behind its spectacular economic growth and the promise of a financially profitable and memorable Olympics, staged in newly-built facilities.

Early this month, Human Rights Watch issued the following public statement: "With just six months to go before the Olympics open in Beijing on August 8, a systematic crackdown on dissent has significantly worsened respect for fundamental rights in China."

Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at HRW, said: "Beijing has given virtually no signs that it intends to keep the promises made to the international community in exchange for hosting the Games.

"On the contrary, we have witnessed a systematic effort to silence, suppress and repress Chinese citizens who are trying to push the government into greater respect for fundamental rights."

Olympic Watch, a monitoring body set up in the Czech Republic some years ago, reported last August: "There has been no tangible improvement of human rights in China.

• Media freedom is nowhere in sight. Independent monitors, such as Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), register at least 30 Chinese journalists and 50 bloggers and internet activists in jail. Chinese domestic media face a policy of systematic censorship and the reporting of international media into China is blocked.

• China continues to execute several times more people than the rest of the world combined. According to Amnesty International estimates, this is 8,000-10,000 people each year.

• Torture continues to be widespread, according to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

• As Human Rights Watch recently reported again, human rights violations are taking place in direct relation to the Olympic Games themselves: hundreds of thousands of Beijing residents have been evicted without proper compensation. A leader of their peaceful protests, Ye Guozhu, has been imprisoned for four years and reportedly tortured."

Amnesty International and the European Parliament have both recently criticised human rights abuses in China.

These developments are quite separate from the issue of organ-harvesting from prisoners, and particularly from Falun Gong practitioners arrested and imprisoned since the Communist regime's campaign of brutal suppression commenced in 1999.

The persecution of Falun Gong has been so well documented and admitted by the Beijing regime, that it no longer makes news. But in light of the scale of the suppression of human rights involved, its direct connection with organ-harvesting and organ-trafficking, and the courageous way in which Falun Gong practitioners throughout the world have stood alongside their persecuted brethren in China, this is a very important issue.

After seven years of phenomenal growth in China in the 1990s, during which the number of adherents to the practice outstripped the membership of the all-powerful Communist Party, the paranoid leadership of the Communist Party decided that Falun Gong was a threat to the party's control over the state.

When the Communist Party-controlled media began running articles attacking the practice of Falun Gong, which emphasises meditation and a personal commitment to sound moral values, its adherents participated in a number of peaceful protests, the largest of which, held on April 25 1999, had about 10,000 people outside the residences of the party's leaders.

In a response similar to that used to suppress the Tiananmen Square protest a decade earlier, Falun Gong was banned, its practitioners were arrested and forced to recant, or they disappeared into the Chinese gulag, the laogai.

A campaign of vilification of ferocious intensity followed. Falun Gong was officially denounced as a sect, and article after article demonised its adherents as "evil", criminal and anti-social. The tone of official criticism was spelt out by the official People's Daily on October 31, 1999: "If we tolerate the criminal activities of evil sect organisations like Falun Gong, the country and the people will not know a day of peace and it will be hard to protect social order," it said.

Far worse than the words were the Beijing Government's actions.

The number of Falun Gong practitioners detained by the secretive communist regime is still a matter of conjecture. But given that there were said to be as many as 80 million practitioners before the 1999 crackdown, and all practitioners were forced to recant or face imprisonment, it is not unreasonable to assume that hundreds of thousands were detained in the prison system for longer or shorter periods of time.

The total number of detainees in Chinese prisons has been estimated at about 2.5 million, of which 1.5 million are convicted prisoners, and a further 500,000 serve administrative detention in labour camps, with the balance fitting other categories.

Those courageous Falun Gong practitioners who resisted were arbitrarily imprisoned; some were set to work as slave labour in the Chinese laogai; and, as documented in the reports by David Matas and David Kilgour, healthy prisoners were killed to provide organs such as kidneys, corneas and livers which were then transplanted for profit.

Persecuted

In the face of these barbarities, it is extraordinary that the communist Beijing regime has not been brought to account by the international community for the crimes it is committing against the Chinese people. It is our obligation to stand up for those who are being persecuted and often killed for their beliefs.

Many Western governments, including Australia's, are afraid to offend Beijing, fearing that to raise the issue of human rights in a serious way would jeopardise trade and other links. Businesses, particularly those with subsidiaries in China, including media organisations, also fear offending China.

The challenge we face is how to make the Beijing regime accountable for the crimes it is perpetrating on the Chinese people.

- Peter Westmore.




























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