The Olympics and human rights in China

When the IOC awarded the Olympic Games to China, it took a bet that human rights conditions in the country would improve.

Many human rights organisations and NGO’s are not happy with gambling in this area and are actively using the prestige of hosting the games as leverage in their attempts to build awareness and promote social change in China on a number of human rights issues.

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Overview of human rights issues in China

From Human Rights Watch’s 2007 report

Amnesty International 
Publishes regular assessments focusing on four key areas of human rights relating to the Olympic Games: Human rights activists, media freedom, death penalty and detention without trial.

Beijing 2008: Human Rights and the Olympics in China  
A site by Human Rights Watch that focuses on censorship of media and the Internet, the forced eviction of people from their homes, and the right of workers to organise independent trade unions.

Olympic Watch  
Monitors the human rights situation in China in the run-up to the 2008 Games and intervenes in specific cases of human rights abuses.

2008 Free Tibet
This campaign organised by 131 NGO’s in the International Tibet Support Network (ITSN) uses the Beijing Olympics to pressure the Chinese authorities for a fundamental change in occupied Tibet.


The Olympic Games as a force for social change   

Since China was awarded the Olympic Games in 2008, human rights organisations and politicians have applied pressure on the International Olympic Committee to use the Games as a lever to improve China’s human rights record. But what is the rationale for regarding the Olympics as a source for political and social change?

The view from China
In 2002, Play the Game hosted the first free public debate about the Olympic Games and human rights when one of the organisers of the Beijing Games, Sun Weijia, took the podium for serious questioning.

International criticism of China and threat of 2008 Olympics boycott 

Intense criticism has surrounded China’s planned route for the Olympic Torch relay prior to Beijing 2008. Human rights groups have also slammed China’s human rights record, their voices joined by US politicians who oppose China’s alleged sale of arms to Sudan.

China raises Everest climbing fees to make room for trial run of Olympic torch
The Chinese authorities are trying to limit the number of climbers on Mount Everest’s north side in Tibet. Officially the Chinese are preparing a trial run of the torch relay for the Olympic Games on the summit, but many speculate that the real reason is that Everest is close to Cho Oyu where Chinese army guards shot at Tibetan refugees in September.

IOC made human rights promise to Tibetans on hunger strike
During the Olympic Winter Games in Turin, the IOC got a taste of the political dilemmas the organisation mayface in the run-up to the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 as a Buddhist monk and two young Tibetans went on hunger strike in Turin  demanding that the IOC should live up to its own promise of monitoring the human rights situation in China in the run-up to Beijing 2008.

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