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  • » 08/09/2007, 00.00


    Beijing 2008: intellectuals and activists publish letter on Olympic Games and human rights

    AsiaNews is backing and publishing the appeal signed by Ding Zilin, Liu Xiaobo, Bao Tong, Hu Jia and others calling on the Chinese government and world leaders to promote human rights at the Olympic Games so that they can be truly memorable.

    Beijing (AsiaNews) – Since yesterday many Chinese-language websites have published an open letter to “Chinese and World Leaders,” asking them honour the commitment the Chinese government made to the international community to respect human rights during the Olympic Games.

    The letter was signed by some of China’s best-known intellectuals and pro-democracy activists; people like Ding Zilin, leader of “Tiananmen Mothers;” Liu Xiaobo, world-famous writer; Bao Tong, who has been under house arrest for the past 17 years and is a former secretary to the late Communist Party leader Zhao Zhiyang (who opposed the Tiananman Square crackdown); Dai Qing and GaoYu, two famous journalists; and Hu Jia, a well-known human rights activist. Altogether 37 academics, lawyers, economists, etc., from across China have put their names to the appeal.

    The letter states that if human rights are not promoted, the slogans heard at the Olympics will betray the Games’ ideals and leave a world “where people suffer discrimination, political and religious persecution, and deprivation of liberty, as well as poverty, genocide, and war.”

    The men and women who signed the letter and who have often been victims of solitary confinement, surveillance and arrest, also slam the violence that has already taken place as a result of the Olympics.

    For this reason they cannot share in any “pride” in China’s glory as the Games’ host country; for them, “these glories are built on the ruins of the lives of ordinary people, on the forced removal of urban migrants, and on the sufferings of victims of brutal land grabbing, forced eviction, exploitation of labour, and arbitrary detention.”

    Moved by “deep affection” for their homeland, they are presenting a list of seven requests for China to fulfill if it truly wants to be up to the Olympic Games. The list includes a call for a general amnesty of all prisoners of conscience, freedom of the press for foreign and Chinese journalists, fair compensation for all those who suffered losses as a result of land seizures and forced displacement to build the Olympic venues and facilities, a demand for fair wages and independent unions for migrant workers involved in the Olympic construction sites, and an independent committee to supervise the use of public funds and prosecute those guilty of waste and corruption with regard to the construction of the Olympic sites.

    Those who signed the appeal ask everyone to join them and add their names. AsiaNews has decided to do just that and urges its readers to do likewise.

    Here is the full text of the Open Letter:

    “One World, One Dream” and Universal Human Rights

    An Open Letter to Chinese and World Leaders on the 2008 Beijing Olympics


    Hu Jintao, President, People’s Republic of China

    Wu Bangguo, Chair, Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China

    Wen Jiabao, Premier of the State Council of China

    Jacques Rogge, Chair, International Olympic Committee

    Doru Romulus Costea, President, United Nations Human Rights Council

    Louise Arbour, High Commissioner, United Nations Office for Human Rights

    Leaders of democratic states concerned about promoting freedom and human rights

    International NGOs concerned with human rights

    Members of the communities of sports, arts and entertainment, academe, and business around the world.


    Respected Leaders and Fellow World Citizens:

    Upholding the fundamental principles of the Olympic spirit, including “respect for universal fundamental ethical principles” and “the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity” (Olympic Charter, Preamble);

    Taking note of the Chinese government’s official 2008 Olympic theme “One World, One Dream” and the Beijing Olympic Committee’s stated objectives of hosting an “Open, Green, and Humane Olympics”; and

    Mindful of the growing number of questions and criticisms in our own society and from around the world about the violations of the human rights of Chinese citizens in the name of the Beijing Olympics;

    We, the undersigned citizens of the People’s Republic of China, here voice our concerns and to propose changes in the ways in which our government is handling its preparations for the Olympics.

    Today, August 8, 2007, marks the start of the one-year count-down to the 2008 Summer Olympics, a mega-event for China and the world. We, as citizens of the People’s Republic of China, ought to be feeling pride in our country’s glory in hosting the Games, whose purposes include the symbolization of peace, friendship, and fairness in the world community. We also ought to feel uplifted by the watchword chosen by the Beijing Olympic Committee: “One World, One Dream.”

    Instead we feel disappointment and doubt as we witness the continuing systematic denial of the human rights of our fellow citizens even while--and sometimes because--Olympic preparations are moving forward. We hear “One World” and wonder: What kind of world will this be? “One Dream”? Whose dream is it that is coming true? We are gravely concerned about the question of whether authorities in our country can successfully host the Olympic Games in an authentic Olympic spirit so that the 2008 Beijing games can become an event of which China and the world community can be proud.

    As the one world that we share “globalizes,” lives and dreams are becoming increasingly intertwined. One person’s “world dream,” especially if it is implemented with unchecked power, and with endorsement from the world community, can turn into misery and nightmare for others. “One world” can still be a world where people suffer discrimination, political and religious persecution, and deprivation of liberty, as well as poverty, genocide, and war. Millions of people who survived such miseries and disasters in the 20th century have come to appreciate, and to pursue, human rights. Universal human rights have become the bedrock concept in pursuing lasting peace, sustainable development, and justice.

    If “one dream” is truly to belong to all cultures and communities, it must involve protection of basic rights and liberties for all. Even the powerful, the rich and privileged might be punished unjustly tomorrow if fundamental rights are not assured today.

    The government that rules our country has pledged to the Chinese people and to the world to protect human rights. It has acceded to obligations under numerous international human rights conventions and treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and it has amended the Chinese Constitution to include guarantees of human rights.

    In order to avoid misunderstanding, and in order to alert the international community to un-Olympic conduct that tarnishes the true spirit of the Games, we, the undersigned citizens of the People’s Republic of China, endorse the government’s Olympic slogan with the following vital addition:

    “One World, One Dream, and Universal Human Rights.”

    Without promoting human rights, which are the fundamental principle of universal ethics in China and elsewhere, it is gratuitous to promote “One World.” Without the protection of the human rights of all Chinese citizens equally--i.e., without abolition of the rural-urban residential control system, without an end to discrimination against women and sexual, ethnic, and faith minorities, and without ending the suppression of political dissent--it is senseless to talk about “One Dream” for all of China.

    China’s government has promised the International Olympic Committee to “promote human rights” and has pledged to the United Nations Human Rights Council to “uphold the highest standard of human rights.” On paper it has taken certain steps toward improving human rights--in 2003, for example, abolishing the arbitrary detention system known as “Custody and Repatriation” and in 2004 adding “human rights protection” as an amendment to China’s Constitution. We believe that the government should be able to do much more.

    Little has been done, in practice, to carry out the promises that have been made on paper. On the contrary we have experienced and witnessed violations of human rights many times--in press censorship and control of the Internet, in the persecution of human rights defenders and of people who expose environmental or public health disasters, in the exploitation of poor or disadvantaged social groups and in retaliation against them when they protest, and even in abuses by corrupt officials who are involved in the construction of Olympic facilities and city beautification projects that are aimed to prepare for the Olympics. All of these actions violate not only international standards but provisions of the Chinese constitution as well.

    We find no consolation or comfort in the rise of grandiose sports facilities, or a temporarily beautified Beijing city, or the prospect of Chinese athletes winning medals. We know too well how these glories are built on the ruins of the lives of ordinary people, on the forced removal of urban migrants, and on the sufferings of victims of brutal land grabbing, forced eviction, exploitation of labour, and arbitrary detention.

    Out of deep affection for our motherland and our sense of duty as citizens of the world, we will do our best, and urge leaders in China and in the world community to join hands with us, to make the Beijing Olympics a turning point in China’s rise to greatness. China has the opportunity to use the Games to build true harmony on the basis of respect for human dignity and freedom and to become a respectable member of the community of civilized nations--not by loud rhetoric or brute force, but by taking actions to promote human rights at home and in the world.

    In the “one world” in which we live, the dreams that are coming true in China today will significantly shape everyone’s future. Therefore, in order to promote a successful Olympics consistent with human rights, we propose the following measures:

    1. Declare amnesty for all prisoners of conscience so that they can enjoy the Olympic games in freedom.

    2. Open China’s borders to all Chinese citizens who have been forced into exile for their beliefs, expression, or faith, so that they can re-unite with their loved ones and celebrate the glory of the Olympics in their motherland;

    3. Implement the government ordinance to allow foreign journalists to conduct interviews and reporting without pre-approval by authorities before October 17, 2008, granting Chinese journalists the same access and independence.

    4. Provide fair compensation to the victims of forced evictions and land appropriations that have been done in order to construct Olympic facilities, and release people who have been detained or imprisoned (often violently) for protesting or resisting such actions.

    5. Protect the rights of workers on all Olympic construction sites, including their right to organize independent labour unions; end discrimination against rural migrant labourers and give them fair compensation.

    6. End police operations intended to intercept, detain, or send home petitioners who try to travel to Beijing to complain about local officials’ misconduct; abolish illegal facilities used for incarcerating, interrogating, and terrorizing petitioners; end the “clean up” operations aimed at migrants that demolish their temporary housing and close down schools for their children.

    7. Establish a system of citizen oversight over Olympics spending and provide public accounting and independent auditing of Olympics-related expenditures; make the process of awarding contracts to businesses transparent, and hold legally accountable any official who embezzles or wastes public funds.

    We further suggest setting up an independent Beijing Olympics Watch Committee, composed of independent experts and representatives of non-governmental organizations and affected communities such as migrant labourers and people who have been forcibly relocated. This Committee would oversee the implementation of the above proposals. It should be allowed to operate independently, to examine plans, to interview freely, and to release its findings to the public. Citizen participation is key to a successful Olympics.

    If proposals even as straightforward as the foregoing cannot be adopted, we feel certain that the Beijing Olympics will not go down in history as the glorious events that everyone wishes them to be. We do not want to “politicize” the Olympic movement. However, pushing the Games through in ways that violate human rights and that hurt people who are forced into silence, all in the name of a “dream” that belongs only to “some” people, not our whole world, will only plant seeds of resentment that will exacerbate the crises in China and affect the future of the world.


    Sincerely yours,

    Signed (name followed by location of residence and profession):

    DING Zilin 丁子霖(Beijing, professor, leader of “Tiananmen Mothers”

    LIU Xiaobo 晓波(Beijing, writer, president of independent Chinese PEN

    BAO Zhunxin 包遵信(Beijing, historian

    YU Haocheng 于浩成(Beijing, legal scholar

    DAI Qing 晴(Beijing, writer/journalist

    BAO Tong 彤(Beijing, former member of CCP Central Committee

    JIANG Peikun 蒋培坤(Beijing, professor

    ZHANG Xianling 张先玲(Beijing, engineer, leading member of “Tiananmen Mothers”

    JIANG Qisheng 江棋生(Beijing, scientist/writer

    CHEN Ziming 陈子明(Beijing, scholar

    ZHANG Zhuhua 张祖桦(Beijing, Scholar

    LIAO Yiwu 廖亦武(Sichuan, writer

    WANG Yi 怡(Sichuan, scholar

    JIAO Guobiao 焦国标(Beijing, scholar/writer

    CHEN Xiaoya 陈小雅(Beijing, scholar/writer

    LIU Junning 军宁(Beijing, scholar

    XU Youyu 徐友渔(Beijing, scholar at Chinese Academy of Social Science

    HE Weifang 贺卫方(Beijing, professor, Beijing University

    XIA Yeliang 业良(Beijing, economist

    AI Xiaoming 晓明(Guangzhou, professor

    ZHANG Hong 闳(Shanghai, professor

    YU Jie 杰(Beijing, writer

    YU Shichun 余世存(Beijing, scholar/writer

    MA Bo 波(Beijing, writer

    FU Guoyong 傅国涌(Zhejiang, writer

    RANG Yunfei 冉云飞(Sichuan, writer

    GAO Yu 瑜(Beijing, journalist

    ZAN Aizong 爱宗(Zhejiang, journalist

    PU Zhiqiang 浦志强(Beijing, lawyer

    TENG Biao 彪(Beijing, lawyer

    ZHUANG Daohe 庄道鹤(Zhejiang, lawyer

    XIA Lin 霖(Beijing, lawyer

    HU Jia 佳(Beijing, independent activist

    WEN Kejian 温克坚(Zhejiang, writer

    ZHAO Dagong 赵达功(Shenzhen, writer

    QIN Geng 耕(Hainan, writer

    WANG Debang 王德邦(Beijing, writer


    If you wish to support the position and the seven proposals stated in this open letter, please send you name, country or city of residency, affiliation or profession, to networkcrd@gmail.com.

    e-mail this to a friend Printable version

    See also

    11/07/2008 CHINA
    Chinese activists to Bush and Sarkozy: Don't forget us at the Games
    An open letter to Bush and Sarkozy, asking that their participation at the opening ceremony of the Games not serve only to honour the Chinese leaders. Concrete gestures against violations of rights requested. Meanwhile, killings and arrests of Uyghurs and Tibetans continue.

    29/10/2007 CHINA
    Tiananmen leader dies, he had asked for democracy ahead of the Olympic Games
    Bao Zunxin, leader of the anti corruption pro democracy movement of Tiananmen Square and famous Chinese dissident, died yesterday evening at the end of a long illness. Condemned to five years in prison for his fight for democracy, he carried on in his quest urging the government to respect the Chinese people’s human rights.

    17/10/2006 CHINA
    Campaigners tell Olympic committee in open letter: our human rights are denied

    A group of Chinese lawyers and human rights activists wrote to the IOC chairman to point out that improvements in human rights promised by Beijing five years ago are not yet in evidence. Instead a crackdown on dissent is under way.

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    12/03/2008 CHINA
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