An ad hoc legal adviser and his family are facing the very real prospect of starving to death in their own home in the Shandong province in China.
Since his release from prison on 9 September Chen Guangcheng and his family have been under house arrest imposed by village leaders in Dongshigu village, Shandong province. Chen Guangcheng is in urgent need of medical attention and he and his family are running out of food, but the authorities have refused to let them leave their home.
We were recently sent a number of images (shown after the jump) by someone close to what is going on in Tibet. I personally don’t want to identify them as it could potentially compromise their safety (whether this is likely or not is another debate, I dont think it’s worth the risk).Â One of the images depicts what appears to be Chinese police (the People’s Armed Police – PAP) being distributed orange garbs. The text accompanying the pictures read:
In one picture you will see chinese young policemen with Tibetan monk’s robe in their hands. We heard chinese policemen are dressing themselves as Tibetan monks and Tibetan laymen and trying to create roits and voilence between Tibetans and Han chinese living in Tibet.
With love, —-.
(click for larger version)
The insinuation is that there are Chinese servicemen who are mixing with the demonstrating monks who are then causing violence (which is subsequently seen around the world), so as to cast the demonstrators in a bad light. Read the rest of this entry →
The Olympic torch saga continues, with the flame having a “secret parade” (a phrase which Libertyblog took exception to). Chinese officials recently declared that ‘no force‘ could stop the relay, and that any protests during the Tibet leg would face “severe punishment”.
The disruption and turmoil (well, protests and riots) surrounding the torch is causing the IOC much embarassment, though they say they will recover from it. The article also notes that Barack Obama has joined Hillary Clinton in calling for President Bush to boycott the games. The torches heads to Buenos Aires next.
I’m going to take a moment’s break from the news to deal with a question: Are the Olympic fair game for protest? I won’t do into too much detail as there have been others before me that have answered this eloquently. I did, however, happen to read a bit on Nearsighted Man’s blog that raised this particular question. There is one paragraph in particular:
I do hesitate to bring this up because my own personal knowledge of the Tibetan situation is limited, but when I see people trying to tackle theÂ athlete carrying the torch and extinguish the flame I am left wondering how this helps the people of Tibet. How does preventing or boycotting the Olympics free Tibet? If anyone who happens to read this wants to offer insight, Iâ€™m all for it.
First, to answer the questions he asked.
It helps the people of Tibet by raising awareness. There are those that aren’t aware of how brutal China is being in Tibet against the protesters. Those people may see the protests and try and find out about them. Or perhaps they are aware there is something going on and are not sure what. When they see the protests they may be compelled to find out what is causing these people to feel so strongly that they have to riot. The question of how it frees Tibet is a bit leading – of course it doesn’t directly, but mindshare is a powerful thing. Ask any big brand or advertising agency. If the protesters cause people to find out more, or clarify what they know, or even debate (such as we’re having here) what is going on in Tibet, then they are doing a valid thing in getting people to realise what is going on. Heck, they might even get a few converts.
As for the games being an apolitical event – that is up for further debate! There is a long and varied history of protests of some form or another, which even the US participates in to this day.
And since we’re on opinions… I am of the opinion that by granting China the games, we are validating and acknowledging that they are worthy of hosting the biggest athletic competition. It is akin (but not exactly alike) to governments officially recognising other governments or countries. Of course, that may be a case of “we don’t like you but we have to deal with you”; whereas the Olympics is a prestigious and elite competition with history – should we really be sharing that honour with countries that have terrible human rights records? In the practical sense this point is moot, of course – China will host the Olympics. But we can certainly debate the validity of the decision.
To Nearsighted and others, does this offer you insight? Does it change any of your views? Do you agree, but for other reasons? Or do you agree with some of my points and disagree with others? Comments are – as always – welcome.
Update: It was in the linked BBC article (“Olympics to ‘rebound from crisis'”), but I thought I should make a couple of things explicit. Firstly, the US House of Representatives has recently passed a motion condemning China’s actions in Tibet. Secondly, the Dali Lama has stated that China has deserves to host the games, although people have a right to non-violent protest. The International Herald Tribune has more on this. He said that he supports (and always has supported) China having the Olympics, but they were using outdated methods to try and silence protesters in Tibet. he also said that nobody “has a right to tell them to shut up”.
He’s a sensible man. He’s supporting the games, but he’s still able to make a point about Tibet. What he says can be applied worldwide – the right to peaceful protest should be a basic human right.
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?
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.
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.
So, the latest development on the Olympics, according to the International Herald Tribune is that director Stephen Spielberg has refused to have anything to do with the opening and closing ceremonies because China is not doing enough to help with the crisis in Darfur. Spielberg’s choice to add hisÂ name to organisations likeÂ Reporters Sans FrontiÃ¨resÂ who, amongst others, areÂ boycotting the games has been linked to his 2005 film, ‘Munich’ which looks at the killing of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.
Also, the organisers in Beijing have now commented on the ‘gag’ imposed by the BOA, also in the IHT: http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/02/12/sports/olympic12.php
You can also read more at the Human Rights Watch website: http://china.hrw.org/
And more about the Human Rights situation at the Amnesty site: http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/asia-and-pacific/east-asia/china
The Chinese foreign ministry have expressed ‘regret’ over the decision, and (imho) waffled a bit about Darfur:
While Tessa Jowell, Olympic Minister, says the Olympic boycott has no purpose. Surprise:
Watch this space.
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”.
British Olympic chiefs are to force athletes to sign a contract promising not to speak out about China’s appalling human rights record â€“ or face being banned from travelling to Beijing. The move â€“ which raises the spectre of the order given to the England football team to give a Nazi salute in Berlin in 1938 â€“ 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 â€œprovides for no kind of demonstration, or political, religious or racial propaganda in the Olympic sites, venues or other areasâ€.
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?