An Open Olympics?

Posted by: Dexter Roberts on February 21, 2008

More grim news suggesting that Beijing is far from fully behind the idea of an open Olympics came earlier this week on February 19th. That was the day that lands right activist Yang Chunlin went on trial in the Northeastern province of Heilongjiang for “inciting subversion against state power”—a catch-all charge used to indict activists that have upset the powers that be in China.

According to his lawyer, Yang was led into the courtroom in handcuffs and leg irons and was chained to a chair for the five hour trial. In a press release on the day of the trial, New York-based Human Rights Watch said there were “repeated, grave, and uncorrected procedural violations” in Yang’s case, and cited allegations of torture, denial of access to defense lawyers for weeks following his arrest in July of last year, as well as police intimidation of Yang’s relatives and lawyers. A verdict is not expected for two weeks.

So what did Yang do wrong? First of all he organized a petition that drew 10,000 signatures from farmers upset about what they view as illegal land grabs by developers (a huge and growing problem across China) in his home town of Jiamusi, Heilongjiang. And while that alone may have been enough to draw the wrath of local officials, Yang’s biggest crime in the eyes of the state was no doubt his decision to link his cause with Beijing’s upcoming summer Olympics. “We want human rights, not the Olympics,” Yang wrote in the petition.

Yang’s case too appears to be part of a larger crackdown on dissent in the run-up to the Olympics. Human Rights Watch points to “a growing pattern of using loosely defined subversion charges to suppress dissidents and activists ahead of the Games” and cites the examples of five other dissident writers and activists who have been arrested or sentenced to jail over the last year. Only Yang’s case however, seems related directly to the Olympics.

“The Chinese government must recognize that the Games will only be truly successful if the perception is that China has kept its word about better respecting human rights,” wrote Sophie Richardson, a director at HRW. Some words worth pondering as Beijing prepares for this summer’s big sports event.

Reader Comments

bob

February 21, 2008 1:11 PM

The western world should realize that their criticisms have no credit among Chinese average people. nationalism is an important part of Chinese people's mindset.

HanTang

February 21, 2008 2:30 PM

Yea, "Right Lang Activist". Who gave that title to that guy? Did any of you journalist report what he actually did instead of branding him as "right activist"? After all, he is Chinese citizen and subject to Chinese laws.

JiaMing

February 21, 2008 5:09 PM

So many people wrote comments denouncing the United States and Hollywood for trying to boycott the Beijing Olympics that BusinessWeek had to pull it off its web site completely after only one day. Shall we need to say anymore? Hahaha...

lilichenlei

February 21, 2008 7:36 PM

Olympics in any conuntries does not welcome those people who want to politicize the Olympics and is not open to anyone who intentionally use Olympics to undermine the stability of Chinese society.

If there would be a game in U.S.,would U.S. government welcome those dissidents and activists strongly againse U.S. invasion of Iraq? Surely,U.S. will cracl down on those people in the name of anti-terrprism

Saul

February 22, 2008 4:25 AM

JiaMing said" So many people wrote comments denouncing the United States and Hollywood for trying to boycott the Beijing Olympics that BusinessWeek had to pull it off its web site completely after only one day. Shall we need to say anymore? Hahaha... "

Get use to the "free" press in America, it's soooooo free and unbiased...

JiaMing

February 23, 2008 1:22 PM

Saul wrote
"Get use to the "free" press in America, it's soooooo free and unbiased... "

Freedom in America is allowed to exist so long as there is no serious threats from foreign countries. The minute the US is threatened by an external force, freedom takes a back seat. Just look at what the US government did right after 9/11 with the full support of the people. Civil rights and due process were gone instantly. Citizens were arrested and locked up for years without charges, legal representation, or a chance to make a phone call. All domestic phone calls are wiretapped and eavesdropped illegally by the government. Americans were so scared that they supported anything the government did for years. Muslims were under attacks and given death threats. Religious tolerence were labeled as unpatriatic and treasonous. Government officials are declaring their Christian faith as important qualifications and the US a "Christian Nation".

Now, the US has been threatening and attacking other nations in the world for decades. Korea, Vietnam, China(Taiwan Strait), Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Serbia and Panama were countries in which the US had conducted direct military intervention. Many covert military operations were conducted by the CIA in South America, Asia and Africa. The US has some 820 military bases all over the world, all poised to attack other nations in a matter of minutes when given the command.

Serbia just lost a province called Kosovo to an secession movement backed by US military presence in that country. Washington still threatens military attacks on China should it choose to take back Taiwan. The fundamental rights of many sovereign countries in the world have been under constant threat by the United States. Millions died from wars waged by the US. Compare the threats posed by the US to other countries to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the only attack on continental US in 190 years, which gave rise to all the violation of cvil rights and freedom inside America by the US government.

While freedom of speech and civil rights in America are certain admirable, it is extremely doubtful whether those rights can continue to exist if the United States is under that same threats that it is posing to other sovereign nations. Let's see what happens to freedom in America when California and Texas are carved away by Russia after it Washington is bombed back to the stone age and Russian troops are stationed in L.A., San Francisco and Huston. The anti-war "activitists" like the Dixie Chicks will probably get more punishment than just being boycotted and death threats. They will likely be locked away or publicly executed by the Pentagon, and Americans will be cheering.

Steven

February 24, 2008 11:01 PM

Free speech in US? Previous Prof. Ward Churchill in University of Colorado wrote a 9/11 essay, he lost his job under the presure from law makers and the government.

Eric Hamlin, a teacher who taught WORLD geography who displayed foreign flags in his classroom, was forced out.

That's just two of many examples about so-called "free speech" in US.

Steven

February 24, 2008 11:02 PM

Oh, my bad. even Businessweek has a censorship system. We all see that.

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