Blue Flower

Written by Admin   
Jul 11, 2007 at 12:00 AM
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Mr. C.L. Keedy

Chairman of Pasadena Tournament of Roses

391 S. Orange Grove Blvd.

Pasadena, CA 91105 

July 10, 2007 

Mr. Chairman, 

As you prepare the next Rose Parade, to be held on January 1, 2008, Reporters Without Borders feels compelled to write to you to raise the issue of human rights in China. We are surprised and disappointed to learn the presence of a Beijing Olympic float at the upcoming Parade. The 2008 Summer Olympics are due to start in Beijing in just over a year’s time but the Chinese government, despite its explicit promises, refuses to make improvements in basic rights and freedom.

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

The Chinese authorities promised in Moscow in 2001 to improve the human rights situation. The representative of the Beijing Candidate Committee 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 registered no lasting improvement in press freedom or online free expression. Foreign journalists obtained a temporary improvement in their status on 1 January but that will end in October. Strong pressure would have been needed to get the government to abandon the authoritarian and suspicious habits 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 forced to work in the prison where he is serving a 10-year sentence. How can you accept that Chinese who have campaigned for more freedom will have to impotently watch the world’s most important sports event from their cells? 

China’s journalists continue to have 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 rooms. Chinese-language media based abroad are blocked, harassed or jammed, preventing the emergence of any media pluralism, 

The laws governing the Internet have been made even tougher in the course of the past six years, turning the Chinese Internet into a space that is subject to 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 conscious are languishing in Chinese detention centres? Who is going to be able to believe in the 2008 Olympics slogan “One World, One Dream,” when Tibetan and Uyghur minorities are subject to serious discrimination? What will you tell the relatives of Chinese dissidents in jail when they will learn about the presence of Beijing 2008 amidst the Rose Parade’s festivities? 

The Chinese government and Communist Party attach the utmost importance to the success of the Olympic Games for their own sakes, but without keeping any of the promises they have made.  

Mr. Chairman, it is not too late to get the Chinese organizers, who are for the most part 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 and to say clearly to the Chinese authorities that you will not allow the Rose Parade to be associated to the Olympics and to have the celebrations marred by the human rights violations committed in China. 

Reporters Without Borders knows the strength of sports and entertainment when they are put at the service of peace and democracy. Mr. Chairman, we do not doubt your commitment to freedom of expression. We believe that your convictions and those of the Rose Parade board members will enable you to quickly do what everyone is expecting of you – to take action on behalf of freedoms in China and to refuse to pay tribute to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games till the promises made by the Chinese authorities are kept. 

We feel sure you will take account of our comments. Thank you for your consideration. 


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Robert Ménard