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>> The International Herald Tribune


BEIJING'S EMPTY PROMISES

The International Herald Tribune - February 5, 2008 Six months out from the 2008 Olympics, China has jailed another dissident. Hu Jia was dragged from his home by the state police, and last week he was charged with inciting subversion. To earn the right to host the Games, China promised to improve its human rights record. Instead, it appears determined to silence anyone who dares to tell the truth about its abuses. Hu and his wife, Zeng Jinyan, are human rights activists who spent much of 2006 restricted to their apartment. She used the power of the Internet to blog about life under detention while he wrote online about peasant protests and human rights cases. Hu's recent testimony, by telephone, to the European Parliament about Olympics-related rights violations may have been the last straw. Zeng and the couple's two-month-old baby remain in their apartment under house arrest. Improving its human rights record isn't China's only unmet commitment to the Olympic Committee. It also promised to improve air quality. Now athletes are figuring out how to spend as little time as possible in China's smog-swamped capital, where they may have to wear masks so they can breathe. Beijing also made empty commitments about press freedoms. China has failed to lift fully restrictions on foreign journalists, including limits on their ability to move freely about the country. Local journalists are as restricted as ever. The Olympic Committee has not made public its formal contract with Beijing. But a new book called "China's Great Leap," edited by Minky Worden, media director for Human Rights Watch, reports that Beijing sought to strengthen its bid by telling the committee - specifically - that awarding it the Games would facilitate human rights progress. China has instead expanded its crackdown on dissidents and rounded up "undesirables," such as migrants and the mentally ill. The United States and other major countries need China's help on many of the most challenging issues of the day. But they must keep reminding Beijing, publicly and privately, that it will be judged as much on how it treats its people as on the quality of the Olympics' made-for-TV spectacle. The whole world will be watching.





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