European Parliament, Subcommittee on Human Rights
Testimony Presented by Sharon Hom
Executive Director, Human Rights in China
Thank you, Madame Chair, for this opportunity to contribute to this timely discussion and exchange.
In the final lead-up to the Beijing Games, the international community has an important opportunity to leverage the Games to advance human rights and to contribute to a successful event—one that is measured by delivery on the host city promises, as well as by the foundation laid for advancing human rights post-2008. Yet our ability to leverage the 2008 Games depends upon the actions of states, the IOC, corporate sponsors, domestic and international media, activists, and civil society. HRIC expresses disappointment that the representative from the PRC decided not to contribute to the exchange today.
We all have a stake in next year’s Games, and the stakes are high.
As one of the key human rights voices within the Parliament, this subcommittee, together with the Interparliamentary delegation and the Tibet Intergroup, plays an important role in maintaining critical attention in 2008 and beyond to the serious human rights challenges presented.
Points of leverage: Promises and responsibilities of a host city
In February 2001, Beijing’s Deputy Mayor Liu Jingmin, a top Olympic official, stated, “By applying for the Olympics, we want to promote not just the city's development, but the development of society, including democracy and human rights.” Liu added that a victorious bid would “help us establish a more just and harmonious society, a more democratic society, and help integrate China into the world” (The Washington Post).
The April 3, 2001, IOC Evaluation Commission Report’s assessment of the Beijing bid noted: “a Beijing Games would leave a unique legacy to China and to sport and the Commission is confident that Beijing could organize excellent Games.”
Having won its bid, what are Beijing’s specific host city obligations? Who is responsible for delivering on these promises? 
Immediately following the selection of Beijing, the Host City Contract was signed by the Beijing authorities, the IOC, and the China National Organizing Committee (NOC). Together with China’s NOC and the Beijing authorities, the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympics Games (BOCOG) is responsible for realizing the obligations set forth in the Host City Contract and the annexes. Guarantees are required from national, regional, and local authorities, city and other competent authorities.
Together with the representations made in the Beijing bid documents, the host city contract (still not public) and the Beijing Olympic Action Plan (March 2002) comprise the promises made by the Chinese authorities to the IOC, to its own people, and to the international community.
The 2002 Olympic Action Plan, prepared by BOCOG, lays out the overall guidelines and plan for the preparations of the Olympics shaped by the idea of “New Beijing, Great Olympics” with emphasis on “Green Olympics,” “High-Tech Olympics,” and “People’s Olympics.” The 2002 Olympic Action Plan includes specific standards, such as technical environmental standards, to which Beijing would hold itself accountable in governance and construction of venues and increasing social and economic development.
These are all points of leverage, pressure, and engagement to advance development, democracy and human rights, and leave “a unique legacy to China, and to sport.”
A recent issue of HRIC’s journal, The China Rights Forum, focusing on the Olympics has a special section examining the gap between Olympics promises and their implementation, and, more importantly — what you can do. It also includes translations of the growing and critical Chinese voices raising questions about the costs and abuses of Olympics preparations; they are questioning who is really benefiting from the huge investment for the extravagant Games.
Olympic challenges and opportunities
Behind the image of China today, and of the Games preparation that Beijing is projecting with the help of the top western public relations, marketing, and media companies in the world, a perfect storm is brewing. China is having a harder and harder time juggling efforts to maintain domestic control while simultaneously presenting an open face to the world. The media, international NGOs, and civil society voices in China have raised many of the human rights violations and concerns related to Olympics preparations, as well as ongoing problems, including forced evictions, use and abuse of migrant labor in building the venues, closure of migrant schools, crackdowns on journalists, lawyers, and activists, and tightened domestic media controls.
Yet the IOC, Olympics sponsors, and the Chinese authorities continue to insist that everything is on track, despite reports to the contrary — for example, the UNEP has again recently indicated their concerns about air quality, as the air is contaminated at over twice the limit prescribed by WHO levels of safety. They respond to human rights issues raised by civil society and the media with “this is not about politics” rhetoric.
Here I must respond to Mr. Schmidt’s comments that the IOC cannot interfere in the host country’s internal affairs. The Olympics Charter has specific provisions allowing such action; for example, the IOC has the right to review and approve every aspect of the opening and closing ceremony. Will it approve an event to start or finish in Tiananmen Square?
Political disclaimers are not persuasive. Throughout the modern Olympic era, the IOC has had to navigate the historical challenges of each Olympiad, including fascist dictatorship, terrorism, violence, and Cold war politics.
In the past, China has also played a different tune than its current “the-Games-are-about sports” refrain: China withdrew from the 1956 Melbourne Games after the IOC recognized Taiwan, and continued to snub the Olympics until it emerged from the Cultural Revolution in 1980.
In the limited time remaining, let me briefly raise two additional issues: 1) China’s blacklist of banned individuals for the Olympics, and 2) security arrangements for the Games. I will then conclude with a few recommendations and suggestions.
- Blacklist: Earlier this year, an excerpt of a purported official Olympics blacklist was posted on websites affiliated with the Falun Gong movement. Although we have not independently confirmed its authenticity, a China-based web portal posted a news item on the list in May. This blacklist lists 42 banned categories of people — including overseas hostile forces, the Dalai Lama and associates, Falun Gong practitioners, and individuals who incite discontent with the Communist Party on the Internet; media workers, NGOs, “dangerous elements,” and members of illegal organizations.
- This list is one example of a much broader issue – the restrictive and dangerous climate in which rights defenders work in China. Within the context of Chinese authorities labeling any critical voices or different opinions as “hostile,” the arbitrary and non-transparent definitions and application of these categories should raise serious concerns. Blacklists are secret, but clearly disseminated internally in the public security system. People do not always know who is being targeted, or when these lists are going to be enforced. Thus, these lists are an effective chilling tool for social control and intimidation.
- Secret blacklists also undermine Beijing’s ability to keep its promise for a “Free and Open Olympics.” That is, to “be open in every aspect to the rest of the country and the whole world.”
We need to also pay attention to the recent increase in technology attacks — which I know Vincent Metten will talk more about — including viruses and the compromising and spoofing of e-mails.
Foreign companies that were selected to provide key technological support include:
The French company Atos Origin, which was awarded the contract to design, build and operate the information technology infrastructure. The Atos IT system, consisting of more than 900 servers, 7,000 PCs and 1,000 network and security devices, links the more than 60 competition and non-competition venues.
EADS, based in the Netherlands and Germany, which was awarded the Phase-3 project of the Beijing Government Shared TETRA Network, a central communications tool for the agencies of the Beijing Municipal government. The project will double the current digital trunking network size, both in terms of capacity and number of users (increasing from over 40,000 to 90,000). The Network will provide seamless, secure radio communication for its users in Beijing, including all Olympic venues and sites as well as main highways.
The reality is that, armed with new security technology for the Games, China will have even greater capacity to monitor and restrict individuals and groups. This could lead to the abuse of security systems during the Olympics and afterwards. Without an independent judiciary there is no effective check on authorities to balance security concerns against rights of individuals. The ongoing attacks on, and detentions and intimidation of, defense lawyers — the defenders of the defenders — underscores this point.
- EP should consider a resolution on China — urging China to deliver on its promises and obligations as the host city for the Olympics, including making the host city contract publicly available. Since the bribery scandal and fallout from the Salt Lake City bid in 1998, other host cities — Atlanta (1996), Sydney (2000), Salt Lake City (2002), Athens (2004) and London (2012) — have all made their host city contracts publicly available.
By blocking transparency and access to this key document, the IOC and Beijing have undermined the ability of Chinese citizens and the international community to monitor and promote compliance with Beijing’s promises. Yet, neither the IOC nor Beijing have fully answered why the contract cannot be released. Indeed, the IOC’s letter responding to HRIC’s request for making the contract publicly available, painstakingly avoids even using the words “host city contract” and “human rights.”
- EP should push 2008 and beyond higher on the agenda of the EU-China Summit in political and human rights dialogues — press EU Member States and the Commission to bring the 2008 human rights issues higher on the agenda of the EU-China Summit at the end of this month (Nov. 28).
Will the Olympics be a force for greater openness and reforms? What will be left behind after the estimated 20,000-30,000 journalists, 10,500 athletes, and projected 550,000 foreign visitors pack up and go home? That is the time for ongoing international attention, concern, and action to support domestic defenders and independent civil society groups.
Beijing wants to be respected and legitimized not only as a result of its economic clout but also because of its respect for human rights at home and abroad. Governments and the international community should do whatever they can to urge the Chinese government to act like the world leader it wants to be, and honor the promises it made to win the 2008 Olympics bid.
The struggle for advancing human rights in China is a marathon — one that will last well beyond 2008. Advancing this process and encouraging China to really listen to the diverse voices of its own people will be good for China’s future, for the region, and for the world.
 International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in 2008, “Report of the IOC Evaluation Commission for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in 2008,” April 3, 2001, http://multimedia.olympic.org/pdf/en_report_299.pdf.
 For fuller discussion see Sharon Hom, “The Promise of a People’s Olympics,” in China's Great Leap: The Beijing Games and Olympian Human Rights Challenges (Minky Worden, ed.; forthcoming by Seven Stories Press, 2008).