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Rights group urges Olympic opening ban over Tibet
March 18, 2008 / 1:08 PM / 10 years ago

Rights group urges Olympic opening ban over Tibet

PARIS (Reuters) - Rights group Reporters Without Borders urged officials on Tuesday to boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics over what it called brutal repression in Tibet, and France said it could examine the idea.

The Paris-based group, known by its French acronym RSF, has avoided calling for an outright boycott of the games and has held fruitless talks with Beijing aimed at securing the release of prisoners held in Chinese prisons.

It says China’s handling of violence in Tibet shows how Beijing has failed to honor promises to improve conditions for journalists -- pledges China made in its bid to host the global sporting event which will take place this later this year.

“China has not respected any of the promises it made in 2001, when it was chosen to host the next Olympics. On the contrary, the government is brutally repressing Tibetan demonstrations and imposing a total black-out on information,” RSF said in a statement.

The statement followed a week of clashes between protesters and police in the Tibetan capital Lhasa and nearby regions. The Tibetan government-in-exile says it believes 99 people have been killed in the violence.

“The world’s political authorities can no longer remain silent in the face of such a situation,” RSF said.

“We call on them to express their disapproval of Chinese policy by announcing their intention not to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.”

Britain’s Prince Charles, a long-standing supporter of the Dalai Lama, will not attend the Games, his office said in January, though it did not give a reason.

FRANCE LUKEWARM

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that France, like Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, was not in favor of boycotting the Olympics, but he said he was prepared to look into the idea of boycotting the opening ceremony.

“The initiative of Reporters Without Borders, which does not have the French government’s support, was made this morning. Let’s consider it,” Kouchner told a news conference, adding that he would meet his European counterparts in Slovenia next week.

“Why not examine all this (then)?” he said, adding that journalists should be granted access to Tibet and the number of people killed and injured in clashes there had to be known.

RSF criticized the restrictions that prevent outside journalists from reporting from Tibet, which it said had swept aside the benefits from a relaxation of regulations on foreign journalists working in China.

New rules allowing foreign journalists to report more freely across most of China in the run-up to the Olympics took effect from the start of 2007, but they will expire when the games end.

RSF also renewed criticism of the International Olympic Committee, urging it to pressure China to give ground on rights.

“Faced with such violations of a people’s fundamental rights, it cannot remain so passive. Continuing on this path would eventually demonstrate a certain complicity with the Chinese government,” RSF said.

The group says roughly 100 journalists, Internet users and ‘cyberdissidents’ have been thrown in Chinese jails for expressing their views.

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