Olympics-Chinese Media Watch: Silence on human rights, pollution reassurances

A report on human rights violations in China is being ignored in the government-controlled media. Human rights organization Amnesty International reported that China has failed to keep Olympic-related promises regarding the treatment of its citizens. The report highlights China’s high number of death penalty cases. Neither central nor provincial media cover the report today. But a handful of bloggers do. One blogger translates without comment a BBC News article on the issue. Another blogger writes a few sentences about the Amnesty report, saying she was surprised by its findings. 

“I personally believe that every action that starts from the perspective of protecting human rights should be welcomed, or can be discussed,” writes Beijinger conniezhou78 on her Windows Live blog. “But in connection with the specific issue of the death penalty, I think that different countries should be evaluated according to their specific circumstances.”

China blocks access to human rights Web sites as a matter of course, but one place where the site was blocked raised some eyebrows today. Reuters and others reported that the Amnesty report was blocked inside the main Olympics press center.

Reuters Nick Mulvenney writes:

Attempts to use the Internet network at the Main Press Centre to access the website of Amnesty International, which released a report on Monday slamming China for failing to honour its Olympic human rights pledges, proved fruitless on Tuesday.

The blocking directly contradicts China’s pledge of “complete media freedom.” IOC spokesman Kevan Gosper said the committee would intervene. CPJ is following up today.

Though the Amnesty report received no play, the official Xinhua News Agency did keep up the hype in the countdown to the Games. Its headlines include a bundle of official reassurances on the Beijing air pollution issue, which is ailing Olympic publicity folks like a dry cough.

One of the featured stories addresses what Du Shaozhong, the deputy chief of the Beijing environmental protection agency, thinks about all the press conferences he’s been attending. He sounds like any government spokesperson when he answers that while he is proud of how far China has come in improving the environment, he knows there is still a long way to go. Another article cites International Olympic Committee official Gilbert Felli saying that the Beijing mist is natural.