An Open Letter to US/EU Leaders Who Intend to Attend the Olympic Opening Ceremony

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(Chinese Human Rights Defenders, July 11, 2008) – Today CHRD releases an open letter from Chinese citizens addressed to US/EU leaders calling on them to use the opportunity of visiting China for the opening of the Olympics to raise concern about the seriousness of the human rights abuses taking place there. The letter was written in response to news that George W. Bush, the US President and Nicolas Sarkozy, the President of France (which currently holds the rotating EU presidency) intend to attend the Olympic Games opening ceremony on August 8 in Beijing. The letter expresses a sense of dismay among Chinese human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists that the US/EU leaders’ highly politically symbolic acts will be used by the Chinese leadership to boost its legitimacy. It also expresses their hope that the trip could be turned by these leaders into an opportunity to draw attention to China’s rampant human rights abuses today. Given the atmosphere of fear created among activists in China today by extensive official repression of their activities, CHRD is withholding the names of the individuals who wrote or endorsed this letter.

July 8, 2008

Most Esteemed President Bush and President Sarkozy,

We, as representatives of China’s civil society, part of the increasingly diverse population referred simplistically as “the Chinese people,” have the greatest respect for North American/European democracy and have long harbored hopes that North America-Europe might play a vital role in China’s transition toward democracy and rule of law. The experience of the United States of America and Europe has been a mighty source of inspiration to us during our arduous struggles for freedom.

Today we are taking this opportunity, though many of us are under police surveillance or house arrest, within the barriers of fear that we have to confront in these days leading up to the Olympics, to tell you the truth. This truth is, in part, that the Chinese government has failed to keep the promises that it made to the International Olympic Committee, when it bid for the Olympic Games, to improve human rights in China. The Chinese government has also blatantly and repeatedly violated its international treaty obligations to protect human rights. Nor has there been any substantive progress toward democratization or rule of law. We feel strongly that great nations like yours, leading democracies in the free world, should state, in a clear, public voice, your frank views of the terrible ongoing rights violations and anti-democratic practices of the Chinese government. You should not be deterred by displays of nationalist sentiment that issue from some of our younger compatriots who have been instigated and misled by the government’s propaganda about human rights.

Here are some of the ways in which the Chinese government is continuing to abuse the Olympic ideal, and its specific promises, as the Games approach:

  • It forces people out of their homes and neighborhoods in order to pursue Olympic construction;
  • It affords no labor protection for the migrant labor that does the construction;
  • Its police harass human rights activists and political dissidents who dare to voice criticisms of these Olympics-related abuses;
  • It tightens control and surveillance on freedom of expression, association, and assembly;
  • It persecutes petitioners (people who are victims of abuse and choose to speak up and seek justice) in order to “clean up” Beijing and greet Olympic spectators;
  • It intensifies religious persecution in the name of Olympics security;
  • It increases “clean up” operations against ethnic minorities, barring them from visiting Beijing or residing there.

President Bush and President Sarkozy, your actions with regard to the upcoming Olympics and your governments’ policies toward China will have great influence on the future of China. You may not fully realize what great political and symbolic significance is at stake from the point of view of those Chinese people aspiring for freedom and democracy. Many Chinese have committed themselves, at great risk to their own safety, to the idealistic struggle for freedom and democracy. These people look to the American and French people and to their leader for encouragement and inspiration. We are deeply worried that your presence at the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony will be used by China’s government, in its controlled media, to give the impression that you give your political blessing to the human rights outrages it is perpetrating. Hence we come to you with the following suggestions and trust that you will consider them with great care. If you still insist on attending the Beijing Olympics Opening ceremony in August, your visit will have little positive impact unless, during your visit, you could:

  1. Visit personally with courageous Chinese dissidents, urge the Chinese government to release imprisoned dissidents, and try to be sure however you can that your visit is not used as an occasion for further repression of dissidents;
  2. Use your influence to pressure China’s President to put ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the agenda of the National People’s Congress;
  3. Continue to express your concern for freedom of religion, for example by participating in religious services at an independent Chinese church;
  4. Express your concern for the rights of Tibetans, Uighurs, and other Chinese minorities; the Tibetans held in prison for the events of March 14, 2008 should be treated openly and fairly under the law;
  5. Express your concern for the parents who lost children in the disastrous earthquake in Sichuan in May, especially including those who are enduring heart-rending difficulties including police harassment in their efforts to get explanations of what happened to their children and their schools.

Citizens of the People’s Republic of China
(Signatures withheld for personal safety)

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