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Olympic Committee to China: Don’t Block Internet

ICC Note:

In the last official meeting between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the hosts of the games, China, a top ranking IOC official reminded China of its obligation as a host country to supply internet access to the 30,000 journalists expected to attend. China’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman said that China would follow the “general practices” of the international community, but refused to say if the Internet actually would be available to journalists during the games.

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4/2/08 China (ChristianPost) The International Olympic Committee told Beijing organizers Tuesday that the Internet must be open during the Games.

This morning we discussed and insisted again,” said Kevan Gosper, vice chairman of the IOC coordinating commission, according to The Associated Press. “Our concern is that the press [should be] able to operate as it has at previous games.”

China is known to block citizens’ access to foreign Web sites including news and blogs, especially those critical of the government.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said that Beijing will follow the “general practice of the international community” regarding Internet access, but declined to say if Internet would be open for journalists during the Games.

In recent weeks, Beijing renewed international concerns about its media censorship when it closed down Internet sites covering news about Tibet that was critical of the Chinese government.

China also banned foreign journalists from entering Tibet, and instead sought to control the news by using its own news mouthpiece to blame the riots on the Dalai Lama. It also claims that the death toll from demonstrations was only 22 when Tibetan exiles say the violence has left nearly 140 people dead.

In addition to Tibet, human rights groups have been pressing China on its treatment of North Korean refugees, house churches, and its ties with the Sudanese government, which is widely held responsible for the genocide in Darfur.

Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have crossed the border over to China to escape hunger and an oppressive government. But the Chinese government refuses to grant the North Korean refugees legal protection, instead driving them back to North Korea where they face imprisonment and even execution for leaving the country – a state crime in North Korea.

Beijing is also strongly criticized for its persecution of unregistered “house churches” including arresting house church leaders, those who print Christian literature without permission, and those who gather for “illegal” Bible studies.

“During his (President Bush’s) visit to Beijing this summer, we urged the President to stress, in both private conversations and public action, that protecting religious freedom means more than just allowing worship,” said Michael Cromartie, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, in a statement.

“It also means individuals must enjoy the freedom of expression and association, as well as the right to choose their own leaders and freely educate their children in the principles of their religion.”

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