Olympic Torch Sparks Protests

April 7, 2008 in campaigns, china, information, news by Rob Hallam

By now, the olympic flame has made its way through both London and Paris, garnering the attention of both protests and One China ‘anti-protests’ alike. As usual, the BBC has a good writeup of what happened in both London and Paris. Points of interest include:

  • accusations of heavy-handedness against the Met police
  • two attempts to extinguish torch
  • one attempt to steal torch from former Blue Peter presenter Connie Huq
  • deviation from planned route through Chinatown
  • 4 arrested in Paris, 37 arrested in London
  • no boycott from Gordon Brown

Also, in our previous post, we referred to a report by Amnesty International that claimed that China was clamping down on dissidents in the run-up to the Olympic games. It would appear this claim hhas some merit – the day after the report was published, Hu Jia, a prominent human rights activist was jailed for three and a half years for subversion.

With the Olympic flame due to travel to San Francisco next as part of its 20-country worldwide tour, and with the death toll from protests in Tibet ranging from 19 to dozens, what form will further protest take (if any) before it reaches Beijing?

by Emma

Human Rights in China getting worse, not better.

April 4, 2008 in actions, campaigns, china, events by Emma

BBC report

Amnesty report

So, Amnesty says that Chinese human rights are getting worse ahead of the games, because they are ‘clamping down on dissent in order to portray a stable and harmonious image’.

This is just one of many views wandering around the internet, along with plenty of others in the pubs and meeting halls of the country as the Olympics, and by extension China, come into focus now that the torch is on it’s way around the world. I am certain that there will be plenty of protests along the way, in fact Amnesty have one planned for London on Sunday. The Chinese Ambassador is rumoured to have pulled out of the London torch relay, although that isn’t confirmed. The same article mentions the Chinese students who will be counter-demonstrating in support of the games.

On the one hand, China have recently allowed the English BBC website through their filters, a decision which provoked much interest from Chinese internet users – read some of their thoughts here.

On the other hand, there are riots in Tibet, Nick Clegg urging Gordon Brown to boycott the games, and politicians asking George Bush to do the same (mentioned in the report linked at the top).

So, are the Games improving things or not? It seems to me that on the surface, things will get better, for a little while. There will be a few highly publicised ‘improvements’. And then, when the games are over and the spotlight is taken away, China will go straight back to ignoring human rights like always. It is up to Amnesty, HRW and everyone of a similar mind to make sure that spotlight stays there and encourages real, long term change.

British Athletes [Not] Restricted From Criticising China On Human Rights (Updated)

February 10, 2008 in campaigns, china, information, news by Rob Hallam

Update: It seems like the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The BOA has clarified it’s position (BBC coverage this time) saying:

“I accept that the interpretation of one part of the draft BOA’s Team Members Agreement appears to have gone beyond the provision of the Olympic Charter, this is not our intention nor is it our desire to restrict athletes’ freedom of speech and the final agreement will reflect this.”

Which is still somewhat unclear – will the clause remain in some form in the final agreement? Hopefully it will be a recommendation or guideline rather than a strict rule of “no criticism”.

From The Daily Mail (only source carrying this at the moment, picked up by a few blogs):

British Olympic chiefs are to force athletes to sign a contract promising not to speak out about China’s appalling human rights record – or face being banned from travelling to Beijing. The move – which raises the spectre of the order given to the England football team to give a Nazi salute in Berlin in 1938 – immediately provoked a storm of protest. The controversial clause has been inserted into athletes’ contracts for the first time and forbids them from making any political comment about countries staging the Olympic Games.

Should a competitor agree to the clause but then speak their mind about China, they will be put on the next plane home. The clause, in section 4 of the contract, simply states: “[Athletes] are not to comment on any politically sensitive issues.” It then refers competitors to Section 51 of the International Olympic Committee charter, which “provides for no kind of demonstration, or political, religious or racial propaganda in the Olympic sites, venues or other areas”.

However, The BOA (British Olympic Association) denied it was suppressing the right to free speech:

“Clearly what we are not trying to do is suppress comment or debate from our athletes. If an individual is asked a direct question and makes a response that’s fine.”

Amnesty International campaigns director Tim Hancock said:

“People in China can’t speak out about human rights without fear of reprisals; people in Britain can. It’s up to each individual to decide what they think and what they say about China’s human rights record and that goes for athletes too.”

Of course, while this looks like an infraction of the athletes right to free speech as countried like Finland have stated, it should be noted that it’s the Daily Mail that is reporting and it doesn’t look like other news agencies have picked it up (though if anyone has a link that says otherwise, post it in a comment below and I’ll edit the post to reflect that). While the Olympic Games is not meant to be a forum for expressing political or idealogical protests, it is surely within the competitors’ rights to state their views or report any abuse they witness?

Amnesty has other things to say about the Olympics too. You can also keep an eye on other Beijing 2008 news stories over at the China section of Amnesty UK’s website and also at OlympicWatch.

Two More Stall Pics

January 29, 2008 in campaigns, events, information, main, unsubscribe by Rob Hallam

I was sent some more pictures of the stall, which include a close-up of our very own hand made cage + pipe cleaner figure. These may go on sale again in the future, but be sure to get there quickly when they do – they are very popular!

(click on the pictures for a larger image)

Cage close-up:

Cage and Pipe Cleaner Figure Closeup

Another shot:

Another Stall Pic

Stall Info and Pics

January 28, 2008 in campaigns, events, unsubscribe by Rob Hallam

As you all should be aware, we recently had a stall to raise awareness of Guantánamo Bay being open for six years, and as part of the raise-off. The event involved distributing leaflets and giving out information on Guantánamo and unsubscribe; selling cakes and confectionary; and selling hand-made mini-cages (which were very popular!).

It also involved me (robert) and Jonny (see what we do) going down Byres Road to talk to people about it – and sell more cakes! The novel part was me being dressed in a bright orange jumpsuit and blindfolded for the journey. The response was surprisingly good, although Jonny informs me that a few people scattered when they saw us coming! Those that we talked to were very receptive, although perhaps they were a little perturbed by the blindfolded man casually chatting away about unsubscribe and Guantánamo. It was good fun though.

Robert + Jonny

The Stall

Stall Cash

Thanks to everyone who took part in the stall and made it possible.

Unsubscribe from human rights abuses in the war on terror

by sinead

Check it out!!

January 22, 2008 in campaigns, news by sinead

Don’t forget about Darfur, crisis is still happening. Check out Amnestys new report (out January 22nd)

www.amnesty.org.uk/crisis

and spread the word.

by Emma

Raise Off Stall

January 13, 2008 in campaigns, events by Emma

Hello everyone, and happy new year!

We’ve had a great start to the new term, our Raise Off stall on Friday raised around £130, which is a great kick off! Thank you to everyone who helped with that.

The aim for this month is £200, so we are hoping to have a film night, possibly next Wednesday, showing Taking Liberties and hopefully running a stress position challenge. It’ll be fun, so come along! More details to follow.