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Olympics are causing China’s human rights climate to deteriorate, writer says

Posted by Author on June 21, 2008

Reuters, Jun. 19, 2008-

NEW YORK (Reuters) – China promised to make improvements to human rights ahead of the Olympic Games but its record may have actually deteriorated in the run-up to the events in August, a human rights activist and writer says.

In its bid to host the 2008 Olympics, China promised such improvements as greater press freedoms but author Minky Worden says the opposite has been true.

“Right now, the evidence is that the Olympics are causing the human rights climate to deteriorate, not improve,” Worden, media director of Human Rights Watch and editor of a book on the topic, told Reuters in an interview.

The book — “China’s Great Leap: the Beijing Games and Olympian Human Rights Challenges” — addresses issues such as law enforcement and corruption, the imprisonment of activists and reporting restrictions.

As examples, she cited the imprisonment of activists who protested against forced evictions ahead of the games and criticized China’s healthcare system in the context of the Olympics.

Human Rights Watch has asked world leaders to use their invitations to the high-profile opening ceremony as leverage to push China for reforms. It has also put pressure on sponsors such as Coca-Cola to use their influence to demand the release of prisoners or assured media freedom.

But Worden said sponsors had not taken this opportunity and she expressed disappointment at U.S. President George W. Bush’s comment that he would attend as a sports fan.

The games offer China a chance to promote reform and let the country show how it has changed since the bloody 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, Worden said……. (more details from Reuters: China rights questioned weeks before Olympics)

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