The Human Rights Torch--Iceland's Move
(Clearwisdom.net) In the run up to the Olympic Games to be held this summer, the nations of the world 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 committee's justification for allotting the Peoples' Republic of China the 2008 Summer Olympics was based on the conviction that doing so would be a way to press for 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 organizations 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 organizations concerned with this issue, such as the International Society for Human Rights, Reporters Without Borders, Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting, China Aid Association, and Olympic Watch, also support those claims. An independent organization that investigates the persecution of Falun Gong in China (CIPFG) has protested against the increased number 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 Tibetan people, the suppression of the freedom to speak, the sabotaging of efforts to stop the genocide in Sudan's Darfur region, and the Junta's violent crackdown on monks in Burma. Disturbed by these problems that the Chinese government has created, the organization initiated a global Human Rights Torch Relay that began a world tour in the heart of Athens on 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, but the series of events throughout Europe, Australia, and the United States dedicated to the cause motivated mayors, MPs, athletes, and human rights thinkers 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 organizations and religious groups, and freedom of unlawful custody without a court sentence. Lawyers that try to hold the Republic responsible through the legal system when these rights are violated can, on the other hand, expect pressure and persecution. Gao Zhisheng, a highly respected Chinese lawyer that has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, disappeared from his home on September 22. Earlier this year he published the book, A China More Just - My Fight as a Rights Lawyer in Communist China, and wrote a 16-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 the immediate release of Zhisheng and other prisoners of conscience. They also called for the release of those whose rights have been violated in the name of the Olympic Games themselves. Ye Guozhu, an organizer of peaceful protests on behalf of the 1.5 million residents of Bejing whose homes have been taken away and replaced by Olympic construction without fair compensation, has been imprisoned and tortured for four years and the organization itself suppressed.
Icelandic journalists that intend to report from the Olympic Games might have to accept illegal curbs on their journalistic freedom to tell the story of what is really going on in this populated country. The Chinese Communist Party has already openly admitted that detailed personal information about all journalists that intend to visit China next summer is being collected into a database. Truth is a liberating force, but authorities that continuously need to cover up for their own actions live with a repressive fear of truth, civilization, and the will of the people. The work of 30,000 Chinese Internet policemen that "protect" the Chinese public from informed discussion about democracy, human rights, and religion is a real testimony to such fear.
By the beginning of the 2008 Summer Olympics, the Human Rights Torch Relay will have visited 35 countries and 150 cities, reflecting the solemn spirit of the Olympic Games and their status as a symbol of human dignity and respect for life. Before the media spotlight shines on athletes' accomplishments in Beijing, sports organizations, governments, journalists, and the general public around the world have to take a stance on how to keep the Olympic vision from being decisively misused.
The Olympic Games and crimes against humanity cannot coexist. The explicit stance of the Icelandic government in foreign affairs where human rights, peace, and developmental aid are cornerstones will hopefully embrace that fact.
Category: April 25 Events