Morgunbladid (Iceland): Human Rights Torch: Iceland Moves

January 26th, 2008

In the run up to the Olympic games to be held this summer, the world nations are faced with the challenging question of how the Games can support the human rights situation in China. The Olympic Charter states that the goal of the Olympics is to place sports at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity. The Olympic committe´s justification for allotting the Peoples Republic of China the summer Olympics of 2008 was based on the conviction that doing so would be a way to press for a positive change in the country. The decision was therefore made on the precondition that human rights would finally be respected in China.

For the past few years independent international organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights in China and Human Rights Watch have, on the contrary, maintained that the human rights situation in China has not improved, but worsened. Many other organisations concerned with the matter namely the International Society for Human Rights, Reporters Without Borders, Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, the China Aid Association and Olympic Watch also support those claimes. An independent organisation that investigates the persecution of Falun Gong in China (CIPFG) has protested against increased amount of human rights violations in the country. They point to crimes against peace and the Olympic Spirit, organ harvesting for profit, persecution of Christians, oppression of the Tibetian people, the suppression of the freedom of speech and sabotage of efforts to stop the genocide in Sudan´s Darfur region and the Junta´s violent crackdown on monks in Burma.

Disturbing though these promblems are, the Chinese government has created the problems and Falun Gong practitioners have initiated a global Human Rights Torch Relay that began a world tour in the heart of Athens in the evening of August 9th, a year before the Olympic Games. At the initial ceremony in Athens participants came from different corners of the world, a series of events throughout Europe, Australia and the United States deticated to the cause has motivated Mayors, Members of Parlaments, atheletes and human rights supporters to officially express their concerns.

Besides commitments to international human rights agreements, all fundamental human rights are listed in the Constitution of The Peoples Republic of China, including freedom of expression and press, freedom for organisations and religious groups and custody without court sentence are unlawful. Lawyers that try holding the Republic responsible through the leagal system when these rights are violated, can on the other hand expect duress and persecution. Gao Zhisheng, a highly respected chinese lawyer, who has been anomitated for the Nobel Peace Prize, disappeared from his home on september 22nd. Earlier this year he published the book, A China More Just. My fight as a human rights lawyer in communist China and wrote a sixteen page long report to the US government, an invocation to the international society, two days before his disappearance.

In the name of The Human Rights Torch Australian lawyers have called for Zhisheng´s and other prisoners of conscience immediate release, also for those whose human rights have been violated in the name of the Olympic Games themselves. Ye Guozhu, an organiser of peaceful protests on behalf of the 1,5 million residents of Bejing whose homes have been taken away, to be replaced by Olympic construction without fair compensation, has been imprisoned and tortured for four years and the organisation suppressed.

Icelandic journalists that intend to report from the Olympic games next summer might have to accept illegal interfernce to their journalistic freedom to tell the story of what is really going on in this country.

The Chinese Communist Pary has already openly admitted that detailed personal information about all journalist that intend to visit China next summer is being collected into a data base. Truth is a liberating force, but authorities that continously need to cover up for their own actions live in a repressive fear of truth, civilization and the will of the people. The work of 30.000 Chinese internet policemen that prevent the chinese public from informed discussion about democracy, human rights and religion is a real testimony of such fear. At the beginning of the summer Olympics 2008 The Human Rights Torch Relay will have visited thirty five countries and one hundred and fifty cities, reflecting the solemn spirit of the Olympic Games and their status as a symbol for human dignity and respect for life.

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