Page last updated at 08:28 GMT, Tuesday, 29 July 2008 09:28 UK

China rights 'worsen with Games'

Amnesty International supporters at a protest demanding better respect for rights in China, in Mexico City on 12 July
In recent protests, Amnesty supporters demanded China respect rights

The human rights situation in China has deteriorated in the run-up to its hosting of the Olympic Games this year, Amnesty International says.

It documents the use of "re-education through labour", the suppression of rights activists and journalists, and the use of arbitrary imprisonment.

A spokesman urged world leaders due to attend the Games, opening in 10 days, to speak out against the violations.

But Beijing responded by saying people who understood China did not agree.

"I hope that Amnesty International can take off the tainted glasses they have been wearing for years and see China in a fair and objective way, and do something more constructive," said spokesman Li Jianchao.

Beijing routinely denies allegations that it abuses human rights, arguing that recent reforms have improved the situation and saying its economic management has improved the quality of life of hundreds of millions of people.

The China Society for Human Rights Studies, which has links to the government, also dismissed the criticisms.

Xiong Lei, a member of the society and guest professor at Beijing University, said Amnesty reports "always say that China's human rights situation is getting worse, but that is contrary to the feeling of most Chinese people".

"We do feel that we have problems, but we are solving them and the human rights situation is getting better and better," Ms Xiong told the BBC.

Olympic values 'undermined'

When it was awarded the chance to host the Games, China said it would uphold the values of human dignity associated with the Olympian tradition, says the BBC's Vaudine England in Hong Kong.

It promised an improvement in human rights, media freedom and better provision in health and education.

But Amnesty International says the opposite has occurred.

Amnesty International (AI) representatives Roseann Rife (L) and Mark Allison speak at a news conference in Hong Kong on Monday
We've seen a deterioration in human rights because of the Olympics
Roseann Rife
Amnesty International deputy programme director (left)

The report says that Chinese activists have been locked up, people have been made homeless, journalists have been detained, websites blocked, and the use of labour camps and prison beatings has increased.

"We've seen a deterioration in human rights because of the Olympics," said Roseann Rife, a deputy programme director for Amnesty International.

"Specifically we've seen crackdowns on domestic human rights activists, media censorship and increased use of re-education through labour as a means to clean up Beijing and surrounding areas."

The group names individual activists including Hu Jia, Yang Chunlin and Ye Guozhu as among those who have effectively been silenced by the government in the run-up to the Games.

Mark Allison, China researcher at Amnesty, urged leaders not to forget them.

"We continue to call on world leaders planning to attend the Games to speak out now to prevent the authorities from using their attendance as a tacit endorsement of violations perpetrated in preparation for the Olympics," he said.

'Getting better'

China's human rights record has proved troublesome to world leaders.

Earlier this month, French President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed that he would attend the opening ceremony on 8 August.

But at one stage Mr Sarkozy said he had not ruled out boycotting the Olympics in protest over Chinese actions in Tibet.

His announcement followed that of US President George W Bush, who will also be present at the opening ceremony.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper plan to stay away, while British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will attend the closing ceremony only.

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