Games spur little progress on human rights
The Olympic Committee and China linked the Games to reforms that have gone unfulfilled.
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Though Rogge told a Belgian newspaper earlier this summer that “we differentiate clearly between the limits of the IOC’s influence and power, and states’ sovereignty,” he did claim “several advances” in Chinese policy.Skip to next paragraph
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Among them are new regulations supposedly allowing foreign reporters to travel freely throughout China during the Olympic period. Since January 2007, foreign journalists have no longer been required to seek official permission to travel outside Beijing. The rules have been suspended, however, in areas of the country with ethnic Tibetan populations.
Rogge has also said on a number of occasions that it was an IOC initiative, after the discovery of a factory employing children to make official Olympic items, that led to a new law against child labor and to the arrest of managers at the factory.
Asked about this, lawyer Kong Weizhao – one of the architects of the 2006 revision to China’s law on the protection of minors to which Rogge appeared to be referring – said that “as far as I know, the IOC had nothing to do with the revision.”
“There were no arrests in the cases we found” of child labor, says Michaela Koenigshofer, a leader of the “Play Fair” coalition of non-governmental organizations that first brought the issue to the IOC’s notice. “We were shocked by Mr. Rogge’s statements.”
The Beijing Games organizing committee’s response to the reports of child labor was to end its contract with the factory concerned rather than to ensure the children’s welfare, according to Ms. Koenigshofer. “That was totally the wrong reaction from our point of view,” she says.
A third victory that Rogge has claimed in the IOC’s campaign of silent diplomacy was “to obtain proper compensation for people dispossessed by the Olympic building projects.”
This appears at odds with the insistence of Zhang Jiaming, vicedirector of Beijing’s Municipal Construction Commission, that all demolition and compensation complied with laws last revised in 2001, well before the IOC became involved.
Nor does the IOC seem to have been able to win proper compensation for the housing rights activists currently jailed or facing trial because of their efforts to organize thousands of homeowners evicted from their property to demand fair indemnification.
They include one housing activist whose case the IOC did, in fact take up. Ye Guozhu was convicted in 2004 of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” after he tried to organize a demonstration against forced evictions. The Chinese side, however, denied that Mr. Ye’s situation had anything to do with the Olympics and dismissed the IOC’s concerns.
In fact, policemen recently took Ye away from the prison from which he was due to be released last week, telling his family he would not be freed until after the Olympics, apparently to keep him away from foreign reporters.
Ye’s fate also serves as a caution to disaffected Chinese citizens who might apply for permission to demonstrate at one of the three designated sites that the government has set up to meet IOC concerns about free speech during the Games.
Ye was detained soon after applying to the police, as Chinese law required him to do, for a permit to hold a demonstration against the evictions.