Blue Flower

Written by Admin   
Jul 17, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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The Honorable Bill Bogaard

Pasadena City Hall

100 N. Garfield Ave, Room 228

Pasadena, CA 91109 

July 16, 2007 

Dear Mayor Bogaard: 

As you make preparations for the next Rose Parade, to be held on January 1, 2008, Reporters Without Borders feels compelled to remind you of the issue of human rights in China. We are surprised and disappointed to learn that a Beijing Olympic float will be included at the upcoming Parade. The 2008 Summer Olympics are due to start in Beijing in just over a year, but the Chinese government (despite its explicit promises), refuses to do anything to improve the status of basic rights and freedom in China.

Around the globe, there is a growing concern about holding these Olympics, which have been taken hostage by a government that balks at taking any action to guarantee freedom of expression and respect for the Olympic Charter’s humanistic values. 

In Moscow, in 2001, the Chinese authorities promised to improve the human rights situation. The Beijing Candidate Committee representative said: “By entrusting the holding of the Olympic Games to Beijing, you will contribute to the development of human rights.” Six years later, Reporters Without Borders has observed no lasting progress in press freedom or free expression in cyberspace. Foreign journalists obtained a temporary improvement in their status on January 1, but that recognition will end in October. Strong pressure would have been needed to persuade the government to abandon the authoritarian and censorship-prone methods that make China one of the most backward countries for the international press. 

China continues to be, by far, the world’s biggest prison for journalists, press freedom activists, cyber-dissidents and Internet users. Nearly 100 of them are serving sentences imposed without due process. Most of them are being held in terrible conditions. The journalist Shi Tao, for example, is being forced to work in the prison where he is serving a 10-year sentence. How can you accept the fact that Chinese citizens who have campaigned for more freedom will have to be content to watch powerlessly, from their cells, the world’s most important sports event? 

China’s journalists are still being forced to accept the dictates of the Propaganda Department, which imposes censorship on a wide range of subjects. The state maintains broad control of news and uses authoritarian laws to punish violators. Charges of subversion, divulging state secrets and espionage continue to rain down on journalists and editors working for the most liberal media. Self-censorship is the rule in editorial offices. Chinese-language media based abroad are blocked, harassed or jammed, preventing the emergence of any media pluralism. 

Internet laws have been made even tougher in the past six years, turning the Chinese Internet into a medium targeted for surveillance and censorship. These restrictions also apply to foreign Internet companies. 

Who will be able to say that the Olympic Games are a great sports event when thousands of prisoners of conscience are languishing in Chinese detention centers? Who is going to believe the 2008 Olympics slogan, “One World, One Dream,” when Tibetan and Uyghur minorities are subject to pervasive discrimination? What will you tell the relatives of jailed Chinese dissidents when they will learn about the Beijing 2008 float being showcased in the Rose Parade’s festivities? 

The Chinese government and the Communist Party attach the utmost importance to the success of the Olympic Games for their own benefit, but have no intention of keeping any of the promises they have made.  

Mr. Mayor, it is not too late to persuade the Chinese organizers—who, for the most part, are also senior political officials—to release prisoners of conscience, reform repressive laws, and end censorship. It is time to add your voice to the international pressure being brought to bear, and to clearly proclaim to the Chinese authorities that you will not allow the Rose Parade and the City of Pasadena to be associated with the Olympics, and to have the festivities marred by the human rights violations being committed in China. 

Reporters Without Borders knows the influence sports and entertainment can have when used to further the cause of peace and democracy. Mr. Mayor, we do not doubt your commitment to freedom of expression. We believe that your convictions will enable you to quickly do what everyone is expecting of you—take action on behalf of freedom in China, and refuse to pay tribute to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games as long as the promises made by the Chinese authorities are not being kept. 

We are sure that you will seriously weigh our comments. Thank you for your consideration. 


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Robert Ménard

Secretary General