EU parliament urges IOC to press China on rights

STRASBOURG, Dec 13 (Reuters) - The European Parliament on Thursday raised concerns about China's rights record and urged the International Olympic Committee to look into whether Beijing was living up to pledges it made to win the 2008 Games.

In a resolution passed unanimously by the parliament in Strasbourg, the assembly criticised the European Union for failing to use the approaching Olympics to pressure China over such concerns.

"Human rights concerns should receive much more focus in the build-up to the Beijing Olympic Games," the resolution said.

It said the parliament was concerned that in the run-up to the Olympics there had been a rise in political persecution of rights activists, journalists, lawyers, and minorities.

The resolution called on the IOC to publish an assessment of China's compliance with pledges to improve rights conditions made in 2001 before securing the games.

It also urged Chinese authorities to free jailed dissidents and stop censoring and blocking Internet sites, and it called for a moratorium on judicial executions during the Games.

Last nonth IOC official and European parliament member Pal Schmitt said he would urge the IOC to make a statement on rights in China before next year's Beijing Games.

Rights activists say China has failed to stick to pledges to improve human rights conditions, including media freedoms, ahead of the games.

Edward McMillan-Scott, Conservative vice-president of the European Parliament, said in a statement he "deplored China's continued use of brutal repression of all dissidence".

Graham Watson, head of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in the Parliament, said Beijing must prove it was willing to meet its commitments.

"By improving media freedom in line with Olympic pledges, suspending the death penalty and ceasing its support for military dictators from Burma to Darfur, it can win its place at the heart of the international community," he said.

"These are promises made not only to the world but to the Chinese citizens as well."

Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Richard Balmforth