In welcoming the Beijing Olympic Torch Relay outside 10 Downing Street, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is sending the Chinese government exactly the wrong message on its ongoing crackdown in Tibet and on human rights advocates in China, Human Rights Watch said yesterday.
The Olympic torch, which was lit in Beijing on March 31, is expected to be a flashpoint for human rights-related protests as it travels through 20 countries. The torch will pass through London on Sunday, April 6.
"The Prime Minister should use this occasion to speak publicly about China's Olympian abuses," said Tom Porteous, Human Rights Watch's London Director. "The main thing the Olympic Torch Relay illuminates in Britain is the government's apparent lack of a public strategy to address Olympic-related human rights issues in China in advance of the Beijing Games."
Over the past year, Human Rights Watch has documented numerous human rights abuses in China related to its hosting of the 2008 Summer Games, including media and internet censorship, extrajudicial house arrests, repression of civil society, abuses of migrant construction workers in Beijing, forced evictions and the ongoing crackdown on protests in Tibet. This week, leading human rights advocate Hu Jia was given a three and a half year sentence for criticizing the Chinese government in the context of the Games. Last week Yang Chunlin earned a five year sentence for having begun a petition entitled "We want human rights, not the Olympics."
"Thus far we have seen no strategy from Brown or other government leaders to address human rights," said Porteous. "With London becoming the next Olympic host city, the Prime Minister needs to clearly articulate the UK's human rights values and distance the country from the abuses linked to the Beijing Games."
Human Rights Watch has called for the Olympic torch not to go through the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, as scheduled on June 20-21 unless the Chinese government agrees to an independent investigation into its repression of protests there. Human Rights Watch has urged Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other heads of government who have been invited to the opening or closing ceremonies of the Games to condition their attendance on human rights improvements.