Rights group chides China

BEIJING – Amnesty International on Thursday said the Chinese government has not lived up its to assurances that human rights in the country would improve in the wake Beijing’s selection to host the 2008 Olympic Games.

The London-based rights group cited in its report a wide range of abuses in China, including frequent use of the death penalty and numerous cases of arbitrary detention, persecution of civil rights activists and censorship of the media and Internet.

“With just two years to go until the Olympic Games take place in Beijing, the Chinese authorities are failing to meet the human rights commitments they made when Beijing was awarded the Olympics in April 2001,” the group said in the report. “Serious human rights violations continue to be reported across the country fueling instability and discontent.”

Beijing, which is investing billions of dollars to build infrastructure for the Games and bolster its international prestige, called the report inaccurate and politically motivated.

“Amnesty International is biased on issues related to China,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Thursday. “It says that China vowed to protect human rights only so it can get to host the Olympics.

“The reality is China has been reforming all along, developing its economy and building a more humane, civil and law-abiding society,” Qin said. “We have every confidence and we have the ability to host a successful Olympics.”

During the bidding process for the Games in 2001, Beijing officials told the International Olympic Committee that allowing China to host the games could help the country improve human rights by spurring development.

China has opened its economy in recent decades and allowed citizens more personal freedom than the previous generation enjoyed. But uneven development and a growing wealth gap has given rise to widespread social discontent and protests.

The fear of instability has prompted the government in recent years to intensify its crackdown on dissent. The Olympics has become both an opportunity for the country to showcase its progress and an excuse to use methods of control more prevalent in the past.

In the name of making the Olympics safer, Beijing decided in May to use the country’s “re-education through labor” camps to clean up the capital, Amnesty International said. People could be held for offenses that include unlawful advertising or leafleting, unlicensed taxis, unlicensed businesses, vagrancy and begging, the group said.

Amnesty International says the system is used to detain people for one to three years, without charge, trial or judicial review.

While officials have vowed to guarantee freedom to the foreign press, it has stepped up control over domestic media, jailing journalists and shutting down Web sites.

Amnesty International called on Beijing to end all such censorship activities and asked the IOC to help pressure the Chinese government to live up to its promises to respect human rights.

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