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Page last updated at 11:33 GMT, Tuesday, 29 July 2008 12:33 UK

China defends human rights record

Amnesty International's Mark Allison

Beijing has rejected claims that the human rights situation in China has deteriorated in the run-up to its hosting of the Olympic Games.

China's foreign ministry said a report by Amnesty International showed the group had "tinted glasses".

The report accused China of reneging on its promises of greater freedom, with activists jailed, journalists detained and more people sent to labour camps.

But Beijing said people who understood China would not agree with Amnesty.

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

He insisted that there should be no interference in China's affairs.

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

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

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

When it was awarded the Games, China pledged to uphold the values of human dignity associated with the Olympian tradition.

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

But Amnesty's report, entitled The Olympics Countdown: Broken Promises, says the opposite has occurred.

It says Chinese activists have been locked up, people have been made homeless, journalists have been detained, websites blocked, and that 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.

'Silenced'

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

BBC China editor Shirong Chen says ordinary people in China are increasingly aware of their rights and are prepared to defend them.

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Security guards at Beijing's Olympic Green on 28 July 2008

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But, he adds, the Chinese Communist Party will punish severely any perceived challenge to its authority, including lengthy imprisonment for some campaigners.

Amnesty is calling on world leaders attending the Games to speak out.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy - after some consideration - has confirmed he will attend the opening ceremony on 8 August, as will US President George W Bush.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper plan to stay away, while British Prime Minister Gordon Brown - in his capacity of leader of the next Olympic Games host nation - will attend the closing ceremony only.

Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it would investigate claims that the internet service provided for media covering the Games was being censored.

Journalists have reported problems when attempting to access the internet network at Beijing's main press centre.

China's foreign ministry said media should be able to use the internet, although websites linked to the Falun Gong spiritual movement, considered a cult by Beijing, would be blocked.


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