13th Aug 2022

EU parliament chief calls for Olympics protest

European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering has called on athletes taking part in the Beijing Olympics to protest against the human rights situation in Tibet.

In an article in German newspaper Bild am Sonntag on Sunday (3 August), the centre-right politician said that love of sports should not be an excuse to overlook human rights issues.

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  • The Beijing Olympics have been surrounded by controversy over human rights issues (Photo: Reporters Without Borders)

"I would like to encourage the athletes, men and women, to look at things as they are, and not to turn away. Each athlete can, in their own way, give a signal," he wrote, with the international sporting event due to start on Friday in the Chinese capital.

"It is our duty not to forget the people of Tibet, who are fighting for their cultural survival."

Mr Poettering's comments come amid general political uproar in Germany over internet censorship for foreign media after Chinese authorities reneged on previous promises to allow unrestricted internet access to the thousands of journalists covering the Games.

"I do not understand why the Chinese government once again limited internet access and sparked international scepticism," German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Der Spiegel news magazine.

The International Olympic Committee has also come under pressure in the row, accused of cutting a deal on internet access with the Chinese government.

"The IOC never really took a clear stance and didn't really press the Chinese to stick to the promises they made on human rights and press freedom," said Barbara Lochbiler, the head of Amnesty International's Germany section, in an interview with German newspaper Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung, reports Deutsche Welle.

For his part, head of the IOC Jacques Rogge, who has been put in an embarrassing position after last week promising the world's media that there would be open internet access in China during the Games, said over the weekend that no deal had been cut with Beijing on internet access.

"I am not going to apologize for something the IOC is not responsible for. We are not running the internet in China," Mr Rogge said.

The human rights situation in China and its crackdown on Tibetan protestors earlier this year have given the games a controversial tinge for months with commentators divided on whether China should ever have been granted the rights to host the Olympics.

In April, the European Parliament adopted a resolution suggesting that the Olympic Games opening ceremony be uniformly boycotted by EU leaders if Beijing does not open talks with the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader.

However most EU leaders have not taken a stand, with EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson in Spring urging a pragmatic approach to the issue.

"We can and should insist on our values and our concerns. But we must also not lose sight of the fact that we are bound to work with China, to live alongside China, to help China succeed," said the commissioner.

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