12/12/2007, 00.00
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International Olympic Committee turns down Tibetan request to participate in Beijing 2008

by Nirmala Carvalho
A group of Tibetan athletes in exile will not give up—they want the international community to look into the situation in Tibet and human rights in China. International Pen calls on Chinese President Hu to free writers “guilty” of writing freely.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – An international writers' group has urged President Hu Jintao to free 40 jailed dissident writers and journalists, whilst Tibet’s Olympic team has not given up on participating in next year's Beijing Olympics despite a rejection by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

International PEN, an NGO that champions writers' freedom in 101 countries, listed 40 Chinese jailed for “exercising their right to speak and write freely,” including Lu Gengsong, who was arrested this year for posting articles critical of Communist rule on the internet; Ching Cheong, a Hong Kong reporter for Singapore's Straits Times sentenced to five years for allegedly spying for Taiwan; Lu Jianhua, a sociologist with a government think-tank implicated in Ching's case and jailed for 20 years; and Shi Tao, a journalist jailed for 10 years for divulging state secrets.

The writers’ group calls on Chinese President Hun Jintao and China’s highest judicial authorities to show clemency, reminding them that all eyes will be on China next year because of the Olympics.

Meanwhile Choedup, regional coordinator in South Asia for the International Tibet Support Network (ITSN) based in Dharamshala (India), told AsiaNews that the “IOC rejected a Tibetan request to field a team for next year's Beijing Olympics.

However, the “Tibetan team currently comprises some 30 professional athletes, all exiled.  These athletes desperately wanted to represent Tibet on the world stage of the Olympics and though they may not have won a medal, but they are highly competent athletes. They are optimistic that they will represent Tibet in London” in 2012.

“We are planning many protest and rallies all over the world in the count down to the Olympics, to heighten the consciousness of the international community of the poor human rights record of the Chinese government as well as the occupation of Tibet and their suppression of the basic human rights of the Tibetan people,” he said.

The Olympics are presented as an event celebrating friendship among young people but young Tibetans “have a sense of frustration; they often describe themselves as ‘not belonging to the place where they stay and cannot stay where they belong’.”

“When Beijing won the bid for the 2008 Olympics, they had assured the international community that their human rights situation would improve [. . .]. So part of our campaign and protest is telling the IOC to follow up on the promises of China.”

In a press release ITSN President B. Tsering said that “in 2002, IOC President Jacques Rogge promised that the IOC would act if they weren't satisfied with progress on human rights in China, but he has silently condoned China's rights abuses ever since.”

For instance “[t]hree weeks ago, a 52-year old Tibetan man was sentenced to eight years in prison for publicly calling for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet. By refusing to talk about human rights, the IOC is letting the Olympics be used as a cover for the Chinese government's repressive policies as it tries to present a new image to the rest of the world.

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