China condemned on press freedom ahead of the Olympics

China’s alleged disregard for press freedom has been condemned by an Amnesty International reported released ahead of next year’s Olympic Games.

The report says the Chinese government makes continued use of detention without trial and house arrests and is engaged in an ongoing crackdown on journalists. It also says that internet censorship is pervasive and lists other restrictions on freedom of expression as part of Beijing’s “clean up” operations ahead of the games .

“This report is a disturbing reminder of how far China still has to go to make good its promise to improve human rights in the run-up to the Olympics”, said John Watson, Amnesty International’s Programme Director in Scotland. ‘We’re urging the Chinese government to ensure that Beijing ’08 will deliver a marvellous Olympic games but also deliver genuine improvements in human rights for China.”

Amnesty has made Shi Tao, a Chinese Journalist and poet, the focus of its campaigning at this year’s Edinburgh Festival. Shi Tao is serving a 10-year sentence with forced labour for sending an email in 2004 summarizing a Chinese government communiqué on how journalists should handle the 15th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Watson said: “What has happened to Shi Tao is a disgrace. We hope that people enjoying the Festival will see the relevance of this case and join our campaign. Standing up for human rights can be as easy as sending a text message.”

Last year, China is known to have executed over 1,000 people – more than all other countries in the world combined – though the authorities refuse to publish official execution statistics. According to Amnesty, the Chinese secretly execute as many as 8,000 prisoners every year (the equivalent of 22 people every day).

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