(New York, August 8, 2008) - As the 2008 Olympic Games open in Beijing, foreign journalists in China face a host of severe restrictions, ranging from harassment to a censored internet. The restrictions break China's formal commitment, made in 2001 when bidding to host the Games, to provide "complete freedom" to foreign media.
On August 4, two Japanese journalists were detained and beaten in Kashgar, while on August 6 an ESPN producer at the scene of a Students for a Free Tibet protest in Beijing was harassed. In addition to obstruction by uniformed police in Beijing, foreign media have to contend with close monitoring and harassment by large numbers of plainclothes police and Olympic volunteers working under police instruction. Their tactics include aggressively following, videotaping, or photographing journalists in an attempt to hinder their work.
Websites containing content considered "sensitive" remain blocked, including those linked to Tibetan groups and the Falun Gong, which the Chinese government considers an "evil cult." Also unavailable are the Chinese-language pages of international human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, China Rights Defenders and Human Rights in China, as well as overseas Chinese-language news websites such as ChineseNews.net and Radio Free Asia's Mandarin service.
These actions are in direct violation of the Chinese government's temporary regulations on foreign media freedom, in effect from January 2007 to October 2008, which guarantee the foreign media "complete freedom to report." They also violate the government's pledge to the International Olympic Committee to lift all restrictions on internet access for foreign media who are covering the Games.
"It's disgraceful the Chinese government didn't keep its Olympic promises on press freedom," said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "And it's shocking that the International Olympic Committee hasn't insisted from the outset that China uphold freedom of the press."
To read more about Olympic-related human rights abuses in China, please visit the following:
- "Reporter's Guide to Covering the Beijing Olympics" (June 2008) at:
- "China's Forbidden Zones: Shutting the Media out of Tibet and Other ‘Sensitive' Stories" (July 2008), at:
- "‘You Will be Harassed and Detained': Media Freedoms Under Assault in China Ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games," (August 2007), at: