AP: China Vows Better Rights by Olympics

BEIJING (AP) - China assured the International Olympic Committee that it would "intensify ... efforts" to protect human rights before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. The pledge was made by Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan when asked to respond to comments by IOC president Jacques Rogge, who said the committee would act if it felt human rights issues were interfering with Beijing's ability to hold the games.

Kong declined to comment directly on Rogge's remarks, saying he hadn't read them. But he said the communist government "attaches importance to human rights and is trying to improve the status of human rights in China. "With the approach of the 2008 Olympic games, we will intensify our efforts," Kong said.

Rogge told the BBC television show "Hardtalk" that IOC members had considered China's human rights record before awarding Beijing the 2008 games. "The IOC will make sure within its own sphere that human rights are totally respected," Rogge was quoted as saying.

Kong repeated government statements that human rights in China are better protected now than at any time in the country's history and that the government was committed to strengthening civil liberties and the rule of law. "I believe that with the concerted efforts of the whole of the Chinese people we will hold a successful Olympics," Kong said.

Rogge said the IOC itself wouldn't monitor China's human rights record, but was in close contact with the United Nations and Amnesty International. China has rejected a human rights monitoring role for the United Nations and denounced Amnesty International as biased.

Beijing was awarded the games last summer despite protests from some critics who argued that it would only encourage the Communist Party to resist pressure for improved human rights.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch has accused China of using the drive against Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network to justify a clampdown in the north-western Muslim region of Xinjiang, also known as East Turkestan. Repression in Tibet and against the Falun Gong spiritual movement had also intensified, it said.


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