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Beijing 2008: World's press launches campaign against repression in China

The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) has called on all participants in next summer’s Beijing Olympics — the International Olympic Committee, athletes, sponsors and other partners — to "exert serious pressure" on China to hold the government to its promises of reform.

A pedestrian walks past a banner promoting 2008 Olympic Games tickets in Beijing, April 2007. Massive demand caused the Beijing Olympic ticketing system to collapse recently as a second phase of sales for people living in China got under way.(AFPTeh Eng Koon)

In a resolution issued Monday by the Board of the Paris-based organisation, WAN also praised US lawmakers for their condemnation of Yahoo, which helped Chinese police persecute and arrest cyber-reporters. At least 30 journalists and 50 cyberdissidents are currently in Chinese prisons, and Chinese media remain under the draconian control of the authorities.

"The WAN Board believes the end of ’business as usual’ in China is necessary to effect belated and needed reform, and it encourages all partners in the Games, and all companies doing business with China, to speak out about China’s human rights abuses," said the resolution, part of a global campaign by WAN to draw attention to Chinese press abuses and help free jailed journalists in the run-up to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

"By all accounts, the Beijing Games are shaping up to be a showcase for China. But these events should not be allowed to take place without active opposition by participants — the IOC, athletes, sponsors, media partners and others — to the repressive conditions that surround the Games. Turning a blind eye to these violations of human rights would be a scandal," said WAN.

The WAN campaign also includes an international conference dedicated to the press freedom situation in China, to be held in Paris on 21 and 22 March 2008. The event, organised by WAN, the World Press Freedom Committee, Reporters sans Frontières (RSF), and Human Rights in China, is entitled, "2008 Olympics: Winning Press Freedom in China".

WAN will also dedicate its World Press Freedom Day activities on May 3 next year to press freedom in China. It annually prepares a package of materials that are published by thousands of newspapers world-wide.

The WAN resolution issued Monday called on the International Olympic Committee, athletes, sponsors, media partners and others "to exert serious pressure on the Chinese authorities to cease their flagrant and persistent abuses of human rights and, notably, to release from prison the dozens of journalists serving long jail sentences for freely exercising their profession."

Among those jailed journalists is Shi Tao, the laureate of the WAN Golden Pen of Freedom, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence on charges of "leaking state secrets" after he wrote an email in 2004 about media restrictions in the lead up to the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Yahoo provided state security authorities details about Tao’s e-mail usage that ultimately allowed them to trace the message to a computer he used at the newspaper.

"The Board of WAN applauds the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs for its condemnation of Yahoo for helping the Chinese police to persecute and arrest cyber-reporters and suggests that this should be an inspiration for politicians world-wide to make similar denunciations," said the WAN resolution.

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs held hearings on Yahoo’s role in the Shi Tao case in November, leading Yahoo Chairman Jerry Yang to apologize to the mother of Shi Tao, and the company to settle a lawsuit brought by his family.

Date posted: November 20, 2007 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 13