Countdown to the Olympics

Countdown to the Olympics

When China won the bidding war to host the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, it had to promise to clean up its human rights record or risk censure, even cancellation.

Buddhist devotee prays in China

Buddhist devotee prays in China

  • More from this series

    • Part One
      Is religious persecution is still taking place in China?
    • Part Two
      Has the Olympics made China's poor much poorer?

Now, in the run-up to next month's Games, little has been heard of human rights and civil liberties in China. Tibetan Buddhist complaints of religious persecution made headlines for a while, but not much else has.

Yet seven years ago, when the Games were awarded to China, the government promised the International Olympic Committee to 'promote the development of society, including democracy and human rights'.

Now, with the Games only weeks away, the IOC is not asking any questions or doing any checking. It is more worried about smog and it says human rights have nothing to do with the Games which 'transcend politics'.

This despite a Charter which boasts respect for 'the universal fundamental ethical principles' and the promotion of 'a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity'.

By contrast, human rights organizations, as well as legal, political and religious dissidents, are saying that human rights abuses, bad enough at any time, have worsened because of the Olympics.

In Programme One, Gerry Northam concentrates on the position of various religions. China points to 'a vigorous growth in the public practice of religion' as well as, incidentally, its own openness about the devastation wreaked by an earthquake, as proof of the easing of the Communist Party's grip on Chinese society.

But Gerry looks elsewhere, and soon finds an official Church toeing an official line, an underground church claiming persecution for refusing to preach socialism, and Muslims and Buddhists with stories of persecution and oppression.

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