Beijing's loss of the 2000 Olympics Games to Sydney, Australia was attributed mainly to it's poor human rights record. After sitting out the bidding for the 2004 Olympic events, China made a promise of improving it's human rights record as the centerpiece of it's successful bid for the 2008 Olympics.
In fact, prior to launching it's bid for the 2008 Games, China voluntarily signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which declares: "Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice."
On September 27, 2006, Liu Qi, the President of the Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee and a Politburo member of China's Communist party reassured the world: "China will live up to it's words and will turn it's words into deeds... The government will honor the promises and commitments made during our bid to host the Games."
So is China living up to the human rights promises that allowed it to win it's bid for the Olympic games in 2008? Sadly the human rights assurances it made to the international community now look dubious indeed. Consider that on December 27 , 2007 China's police arrested Hu Jia at his home in Beijing. While the focus of the world's news media was in Pakistan, police arrested China's leading human rights activist. "Reporters Without Borders" described the arrest as follows : "The political police have taken advantage of the international community's focus on Pakistan to arrest one of the foremost representatives of the peaceful struggle for free expression in China."
Hu Jia was last seen by the international community through his participation (via a web camera) in a parliamentary hearing in Brussels in November 2007. The topic of the hearing was human rights in China. At the hearing Jia said: "It is ironic that one of the people in charge of organizing the Olympic Games is the head of the Bureau of Public Security, which is responsible for so many human rights violations. It is very serious that the official promises are not being kept before the games".
Hu Jia is married to Zeng Jinyan. Zeng was named one of the world's 100 most influential people by Time Magazine in 2007. In 2007, Time Magazine (Arianna Huffington) describes her as follows: "When Zeng's husband, (Hu Jia) was detained by the Chinese government without any legal proceedings last year, Zeng, now 22, started a blog detailing her experiences and the oppressive activities of the country's secret police. Since then, her blog has been blocked in China, and she and her husband have been harassed, intimidated and subjected to round-the-clock surveillance. But she has steadfastly continued to blog, attracting an international audience with her sardonic style-and her courage".
On December 13, 2007 Chinese writer Wang Dejia was arrested and charged with "subverting state authority". He had just written a blog entitled, " The Olympic Games in Handcuffs Will Just Bring Misfortune on the Population". Wang had criticized the government's human rights situation as it prepares for the 2008 Olympic Games and had met with U.S. Embassy officials to discuss human rights in China in October 2007.
Larry Siems, Director of the Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center commented on the arrest of Wang Dejia as follows: "With the arrest of Wang Dejia (pen name Jing Chu), the total number of writers PEN believes are unjustly imprisoned in China has risen to forty one. It is certainly disconcerting that despite it's promises of press freedom, the Chinese government is instead continuing to tighten it's control over the media. As the Games approach, the number of writers in prison should be dwindling, not rising. We fear that Wang Dejia's arrest may be the first of many in a final push to clamp down on dissent within China before August 8, 2008."
It is clear that the promises of improving the country's human rights that China made to win the 2008 Olympic Games have not being realized. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) needs to become more critical of China's broken promises and ongoing human rights injustices.
This year's Olympic slogan is "One World, One Dream". That Olympic slogan certainly rings hollow as China continues to suppress basic human rights. Indeed, the recent suppression of free speech combined with the silence of the IOC means that improving human rights are just a Beijing propaganda game.