China, the Olympics, and Prison

In case anyone out there missed it, the Summer Olympics will be held in Beijing, China this year.  You may have seen or heard some of the murmurings about protests, etc. as the olympic torch makes its way around the world–protests mainly centered around Tibet.  What has flown under the radar, at least in my sheltered little world, are protests about other human rights abuses in China.  Last week, a court in Beijing sentenced Chinese human rights activits Hu Jia to 3.5 years in prison for writing an essay.  Yes, you read that correctly!  Putting pen to paper is apparently a incarcerable offense in the world today.  The whole article can be found on the Washington Post’s site (here), but here are some excerpts:

To clear space for Olympic-related construction, thousands of civilian houses have been destroyed without their former owners being properly compensated. Brothers Ye Guozhu and Ye Guoqiang were imprisoned for a legal appeal after their house was forcibly demolished. Ye Guozhu has been repeatedly handcuffed and shackled, tied to a bed and beaten with electric batons. During the countdown to the Olympic Games he will continue to suffer from torture in Chaobei Prison in Tianjin…

It has been reported that over 1.25 million people have been forced to move because of Olympic construction; it was estimated that the figure would reach 1.5 million by the end of 2007. No formal resettlement scheme is in place for the over 400,000 migrants who have had their dwelling places demolished. Twenty percent of the demolished households are expected to experience poverty or extreme poverty…

China still practices literary inquisition and holds the world record for detaining journalists and writers, as many as several hundred since 1989, according to incomplete statistics. As of this writing, 35 Chinese journalists and 51 writers are still in prison. Over 90 percent were arrested or tried after Beijing’s successful bid for the Olympics in July 2001. For example, Shi Tao, a journalist and a poet, was sentenced to ten years in prison because of an e-mail sent to an overseas website…

Religious freedom is still under repression. In 2005, a Beijing pastor, Cai Zhuohua, was sentenced to three years for printing Bibles. Zhou Heng, a house church pastor in Xinjiang, was charged with running an “illegal operation” for receiving dozens of boxes of Bibles. From April to June 2007, China expelled over 100 suspected U.S., South Korean, Canadian, Australian, and other missionaries. Among them were humanitarian workers and language educators who had been teaching English in China for 15 years…

China has the highest death penalty rate in the world. Execution statistics are treated as “state secrets.” However, experts estimate that 8,000-10,000 people are sentenced to death in China every year, among them not only criminals and economic convicts, but totally innocent citizens, such as Nie Shubin, Teng Xingshan, Cao Haixin and Hugejiletu, whose innocence was proven only after they were already dead…

China continues to cruelly discriminate against its rural population. According to the Chinese election law, a farmer’s right to vote is worth one quarter of that of an urban resident. In June 2007, the Shanxi kiln scandal was exposed by the media. Thousands of 8- [to-]13[-]year-old trafficked children had been forced to labor in illegal kilns, almost all with local government connections. Many of the children were beaten, tortured and even buried alive…

The Chinese government has been selling arms and weapons to Darfur and other African regions to support ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The Chinese authorities have forcibly repatriated North Korean refugees, knowing that they would be sent to labor camps or executed once back home. This significantly contravenes China’s accession to the “Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees” and the “Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.”

Now call me a bleeding heart if you want, but I don’t really hear anyone in the U.S crying foul about any of this, definitely not to the point of calling for any sort of boycott.   Correct me if I’m wrong, but almost as many countries boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow as participated because of Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan, so where’s the outrage?

I may be totally cynical about this, but could the deafening silence come from the insane profitability of the Olympics?  Consider that over $1.5 billion was spent on TV advertising alone for the 2004 Summer Olympics.  And while advertising no doubt costs big bucks at an international event like this, Adidas (for one) has said that Olympic marketing is a major player in helping them reach $1.6 billion in sales for 2010 (source).  It would be interesting to know what sort of profits Yum!, Marriott, Coca-Cola and other major players hope to make over the course of a few weeks this summer.

If we had any principle as a nation, we’d pull the plug on the whole thing…athletes and “sponsors” alike.  But I gue$$ we won’t, there i$ too mu¢h at $take here for the ¢hine$e Olympi¢$, right?

HT: Dr. Veith


One thought on “China, the Olympics, and Prison

  1. Pingback: More Thoughts on the Olympics… « Taking Thoughts Captive…

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