Countdown to the Olympics

Countdown to the Olympics

Homeless person on the street in Beijing

Homeless person on the street in Beijing

  • 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?

In the run-up to next month's Olympic Games in Beijing, little has been heard of human rights and civil liberties in China.

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. 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 Two, Gerry Northam turns to the position of dissidents and legal activists. One story he tells is of China's most prominent dissident, Hu Jia, who published an Open Letter called The Real China and the Olympics, and has been in custody ever since.

But what of the allegation that life has worsened because of the Games? One example cited is the siphoning of water from Beijing's outlying areas in order to meet Olympic needs, with the result that poor people find themselves with inadequate supplies.

Chinese officials point to national reforms, technological advances, greater freedoms overall, all things they say the Olympics will only accelerate, Gerry sees and hears much that would appear to contradict such optimism.

After all, China is a country which implements the death penalty for 60 different crimes. Nobody, however, has called for a boycott of the Games. Not even the Dalai Lama.

Are Beijing's Olympics a missed opportunity? A cover-up by officials determined that journalists feed a positive image of China to a watching world or an authentic expression of the Games' motto 'One World, One Dream'?

Gerry finds out whether governments that initially demanded visible improvements to civil liberties in China are now turning a blind eye.

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