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Chinese Press Freedoms Concern Human Rights Groups


By Eric Green
USINFO Staff Writer

Human Rights Groups Concerned over Chinese Press Freedom

Freedom of the press in China, where 29 Chinese journalists are in prison, is a top concern of independent press advocacy and human rights groups that have issued new reports about the matter.

Bob Dietz, Asia program coordinator for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), told USINFO August 8 that his group has joined other global press organizations in calling for China to honor the commitments it made to stop repressing Chinese journalists when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted China rights to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.

Speaking from Beijing, Dietz said his group intends to keep insisting to the IOC, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, that the IOC pressure the government of China to end its repression against Chinese journalists.

Both the IOC and China promised in 2001 that the human rights situation in China would be improved for the 16-day Olympic competition that begins on August 8, 2008, Dietz said. But instead, he charged, the Chinese government continues to repress Chinese journalists while the IOC is "waffling" on the issue.

A CPJ report, released at a news conference August 7 in Beijing, said the Chinese government "severely restricts and censors the domestic press despite its promise to give the media complete freedom." Besides condemning the fact that 29 Chinese journalists are in prison, the report says "vast censorship rules are in place" in China, and "press attacks and harassment occur with impunity."

Dietz, one of the report's principal authors, said the CPJ news conference in Beijing attracted a sizable number of international and Chinese journalists. Although the release of the report received extensive global media coverage, "I'm not aware of anything being written about it in the Chinese press," Dietz said.

China's censors are said to keep a tight grip on local media and block foreign Web sites and broadcasts critical of the government.

Other Voices On China

John Negroponte, the U.S. deputy secretary of state, says the Chinese government "needs to respect its citizens' right to speak, assemble, and publish ... free of coercion."

Testifying May 1 about China before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Negroponte said the United States believes that China's people "should have a meaningful say in how they are governed and to take part in the conduct of public affairs. These are fundamental human rights stipulated in international human rights instruments, as well as in China's own constitution."

Meanwhile, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders staged events around the world August 7 to denounce what it called China's "appalling human rights situation."

The press group, in a statement rebuking China for being the world's "largest jailer of journalists," called for the release of journalists, cyber-dissidents and free speech activists currently being held by the Chinese government, and for an end to censorship of the news media and the Internet. At least 12 Web sites in China were closed or blocked in July, said Reporters Without Borders.

Another group, Human Rights Watch, issued a report charging that Chinese authorities repeatedly have obstructed the work of foreign journalists in 2007, even though China adopted at the beginning of the year "temporary regulations to comply with commitments it made to the International Olympic Committee on guaranteeing journalists' freedom."

In an August 7 statement, Human Rights Watch said the Chinese government's "attempts to intimidate and detain foreign journalists for simply doing their jobs shows contempt" for the Olympic ideals of fair play.

The human rights group Amnesty International said August 7 that the Olympics are being used by the Chinese government to justify its "growing crackdown on Chinese human rights activists and journalists" in the name of harmony or social stability rather than "acting as a catalyst for reform."

Amnesty International, which also released a report on the situation, said it remained hopeful that "prompt action can still be taken to create a more favorable human rights environment for the Beijing Olympics in August 2008 and beyond."

Victor Cha, former director for Asian affairs at the White House National Security Council, wrote in an August 8 Washington Post opinion piece that the Olympics are generating pressure on the Chinese regime "to change its behavior, not just its image."

Cha, now a Georgetown University professor in Washington, said Beijing must find a way "to join its controlled and closed political system with the classical liberal ideals of individualism, open competition, and respect for human dignity embodied in the Olympics."

The reports by the CPJ, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International are on the groups' Web sites. The statement by Reporters Without Borders is on the group's Web site.

ENDS

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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