CECC Chairman Sander Levin and Cochairman Byron Dorgan Issue Statement on China's Olympic Commitments

Congressional-Executive Commission on China | www.cecc.gov

CECC Chairman Sander Levin and Cochairman Byron Dorgan Issue Statement on China's Olympic Commitments

August 1, 2008

(Washington, DC)—China made a number of commitments in its quest to host the 2008 Olympic Summer Games. These included specific commitments to human rights, press freedom, openness and the environment. These commitments are documented and unmistakable. China plays an increasingly significant role in the international community, and it is vital that there be continuing assessment of its commitments, whether as a member of the WTO or as the awarded host of the Olympics. This is not a matter of one country meddling in the affairs of another. Other nations, including ours, have both the responsibility and a legitimate interest in ensuring compliance with these commitments.

On July 12, 2001, days before the International Olympic Committee voted to select Beijing as the site of the 2008 Olympics, Mr. Wang Wei, Secretary General of the Beijing Olympic Bid Committee, told the press, "(w)e are confident that the Games coming to China not only promotes our economy, but also enhances all social conditions, including education, health and human rights." These words could not have been clearer. Human rights and the 2008 Olympics were linked before Beijing was awarded the Games, and China itself linked them. And China was correct to do so. Let us be absolutely clear: criticism of China continues today not due to meddling, not due to "subversion," and not even because China is hosting the Olympics. Criticism continues because China's leaders refuse to live up to the international commitments they themselves publicly made.

Today, more than 800 individuals are known to be languishing at this very moment in jail cells across China simply for attempting to exercise their rights to speak, to write, to work, to organize, and to engage fully in spiritual and religious life. They are peasants, professors, parents, priests, and poets. They include those who were branded subversive for stating publicly that the protection of human rights mattered more to them than hosting the Olympic Games.

Beijing's Olympic bid documents stated "There will be no restrictions on journalists in reporting on the Olympic Games," and Beijing's Action Plan for the Olympics states that "(i)n the preparation for the Games, we will be open in every aspect to the rest of the country and the whole world." Yet the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China received reports of 160 cases of various forms of harassment against foreign journalists in China during 2007 and 110 cases just in the first six months of 2008.

Furthermore, journalists in Beijing's Olympic press facilities reported on July 30 that China blocked foreign reporters' access to foreign web sites, including those of organizations reporting on human rights issues related to the Olympic Games. Reporters in the Olympic press headquarters in Beijing today confirmed that some previously restricted sites had been unblocked, but whether these actions constitute full compliance with China's prior commitments remains to be seen.

Beijing's bid documents also stated that "Beijing promises to provide a clean environment for the athletes by 2008." Yet athletes from around the world are arriving in Beijing with anti-pollution masks, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is considering rescheduling endurance events such as the marathon to prevent health risks due to air pollution.

China's failure to meet the commitments it made in its quest for the Games — which, as this newsletter shows, are clear, documented and unmistakable — underscores serious questions about what China and other nations will do in the future if China's failure to meet its Olympics-related commitments continues.

To contact Chairman Sander Levin, call Douglas Grob at 202-226-3777.
To contact Cochairman Byron Dorgan, call Charlotte Oldham-Moore at 202-226-3798.