January 8, 2008
Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda
2-3-1, Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku
Re: Human rights and the Beijing Olympics
Dear Prime Minister Fukuda,
Given Japan's standing in the region, initiatives by your government in this regard will be particularly important since they could influence the actions of many other nations participating in the Beijing Games, and serve to inspire productive steps on the part of the Japanese Olympic Committee as well as major corporate sponsors. Last November, Human Rights Watch met with a representative from the Japanese National Olympic Committee, who was informed and interested by our discussion.
In February 2001, Liu Jingmin, the vice-president of the Beijing Olympic Committee then bidding for the Games, stated that a victorious bid would help further advance the human rights conditions of China.・Yet Human Rights Watch has researched and documented numerous human rights abuses in China, many specifically related to the government's hosting of the Olympics:
1. Abuses of media freedom. The Chinese government in 2001 made a specific commitment to give the media freedom to report during the Olympics. As part of that pledge, in December 2006 the Chinese government unveiled new temporary regulations designed to give accredited foreign journalists expanded freedoms in the run-up to and during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. That decision appeared to mark a significant easing of the tight official controls on reporting activities that have long constrained foreign correspondents・freedom of expression in China. However, Human Rights Watch research indicates that these regulations are being persistently flouted and that foreign journalists continue to be routinely harassed, detained and intimidated by Chinese government officials, security forces and plainclothes thugs who appear to operate at official behest. Meanwhile, Chinese journalists, researchers, translators and assistants, and foreign correspondents continue to risk potentially vicious reprisals from state agencies for reporting that steps behind the dictates of the official propaganda system.
2. Abuses of the rights of migrant construction workers in Beijing. Beijing’ｓ selection as the host of the 2008 Olympic Games in 2001 has sparked a building boom overwhelmingly powered by more than one million migrant construction workers who are routinely cheated of their wages, required to endure dangerous work conditions and denied medical and accident insurance as well as basic social services.
3. Mass eviction of Beijing residents and the demolition of residential areas for Olympic Games-related infrastructure. The redevelopment of large areas of Beijing for the construction of Olympics venues and related infrastructure including new roads and an expanded subway system has come at a huge human cost. Specifically, thousands of Beijing residents have been forcibly evicted from their homes without due process and without legally-stipulated compensation, and their homes have been subsequently demolished.
4. The increasing use of extrajudicial mechanisms including house arrest to silence and contain dissidents. Chinese citizens who challenge their government痴 lack of respect for human rights ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing are increasingly being silenced and constrained by the use of extrajudicial mechanisms such as house arrest. House arrest and related mechanisms are open-ended curtailments of individuals・personal freedom implemented directly by police on often ambiguous legal grounds/charges without allowing Chinese citizens the basic right of a public trial. Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan, two of China's best known dissidents, have been under house arrest in Beijing since May 2007 for challenging the Chinese government's human rights record ahead of the 2008 Olympics.
Further information on these and other human rights abuses is available on our regularly updated Beijing Olympics website .
In light of these developments, we wish to know specifically:
- What steps Japan is taking to raise its concerns about human rights abuses related to the 2008 Olympic Games with the Chinese government? What is the strategy of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for raising concerns over the remaining months before the Games open?
- If you or members of your government intend to attend the Games, what kinds of actions and statements do you envision making before and during the Games as part of your strategy to take advantage of the opportunity the Olympics present?
- What will the Japanese government do prior to and during the Olympic Games to ensure that the many Japanese journalists who will go to Beijing and their international and local translators, facilitators, photographers and other staff are not detained, harassed or otherwise abused for taking at face value the Chinese government'scommitment to press freedom?
- What obligations does your government expect the Japanese Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee to fulfill with respect to human rights in China?
Prime Minister Fukuda, you have a rare opportunity for engaging with China's leaders on these and other pressing human rights problems such as the frequent arrests and forced repatriations of North Korean escapees--in a substantive way as the countdown to the Olympics continues.
Human Rights Watch looks forward to assisting your efforts to do that, and would appreciate the opportunity of a meeting with you to discuss the human rights situation in China and make specific recommendations about how you and your government can make a difference. Human Rights Watch has staff based in Japan, so we are available to meet at your earliest convenience.
Thank you in advance for your consideration.