IOC approved Chinese Internet censorship
– Some International Olympic Committee officials cut a deal to let China block sensitive websites despite promises of unrestricted access, a senior IOC official said to Reuters on Wednesday July 30.
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The concept of press freedom has never been very popular with the Chinese authorities. Nevertheless, the Chinese government has committed to providing media with the same freedom to report from the 2008 Beijing Olympics as they enjoyed at previous Olympics in other countries. However, journalists in China have already complained of finding access to sites sensitive to China’s oppressive leadership blocked.
Attempts at the main Olympic press center to access the website of Amnesty International have been fruitless. Other websites, including those of spiritual group Falun Gong, are also inaccessible.
According to Reuters, The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG)has announced that there will be limitations on website access during Games time.
– I also now understand that some IOC officials negotiated with the Chinese that some sensitive sites would be blocked on the basis they were not considered Games related, IOC press chief Kevan Gosper told Reuters.
When China won the right to host the 2008 Olympic Games, the Chinese government promised to let foreign media report freely from the Games. The announcement that there will be restrictions shows clearly that the Chinese regime has no intention of keeping their promises. It also proves that the IOC were at best overly optimistic when they claimed that hosting the 2008 Olympics would help the development of human rights in China. If Gosper tells the truth, the IOC have not even done their best to ensure that the media will be guaranteed a minimum of freedom. Instead of claiming higher moral standards from the Chinese regime, the IOC have lowered their own, sacrificing important moral values such as freedom of speech, openness and transparency.
Cleaning the house
I have for some time been convinced that the Beijing Olympics will not make China a better, more open society. The Chinese regime has shown clearly that it has absolutely no intent of doing anything whatsoever to improve its human rights record. Instead, Chinese authorities have seen the upcoming Olympics as a perfect opportunity to “clean the house before the guests arrive”¹, by imprisoning journalists, bloggers, human rights activists and others who dare speak out against the regime.
See no evil
The IOC has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear on Chinese human rights violations for far to long. The Committee pretends not to notice the brutal oppression of the Tibetan people. It keeps silent about the Chinese support for the horrible regime in Burma, and it pretends not to notice that the Chinese “justice” system uses the Olympics as an excuse to round up and incarcerate every dissident it can find.
No more games
Both the IOC, national Olympic committees and governments all over the globe have dismissed the calls for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics, stating that a boycott is not the right way to send a message to the Chinese authorities. That might, alas, be true. However, a boycott may be the perfect way to send a clear message to the IOC that freedom of information is not something that can be bargained away. That occupation, violent oppression and never-ending human rights violations do not make up the perfect backdrop for the Olympic Games. That either the Olympics must be held in an atmosphere of peace, freedom and openness, or they cannot be held at all.
I for one, am not exactly proud that Norwegian athletes will compete, under the Norwegian flag, for an organization that does not only accept, but in effect sanctions censorship of the media. And while the Chinese authorities have shown clearly that they do not care about public opinion, the IOC will eventually have to listen. I therefore call for a boycott, not only of the Beijing Olympics, but of all IOC-sponsored events until the IOC shows clearly – by action, not only by words – that it takes human rights and the freedoms of speech and the press seriously.
Let us turn a blind eye on the Olympics, just like the IOC has turned a blind eye on Chinese human rights violations. Let us censor the Olympics just like the IOC and the Chinese government have censored Amnesty and Falun Gong. In Beijing, the games will begin. For the Chinese authorities, the show must and will go on. But for the rest of us, let there be no more games.
¹ – You call it a crackdown, we call it cleaning the house before inviting guests, Chinese ambassador to Norway, Gao Jian, said of the Chinese crackdown on Tibetan dissidents to the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet.