Olympics leader says free speech "absolute" right
Calling freedom of expression an absolute human right, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said athletes at the Summer...
The Washington Post
BEIJING — Calling freedom of expression an absolute human right, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said athletes at the Summer Games in Beijing would be allowed to speak without restriction at some Olympic sites and he had insisted Chinese officials begin fully enforcing a new media law that promises journalists full access in China.
China, meanwhile, said arrests in January and March had uncovered a plot by radical Islamists to kidnap foreigners, including journalists, to bomb hotels and government buildings, and to poison food in Beijing and Shanghai.
Pressure also increased on world leaders Thursday to signal their opposition to China's policies in Tibet and its close relations with the government of Sudan by skipping the Games' opening ceremony. The European Parliament urged leaders of its 27 member nations to consider a boycott of the ceremony unless China opens a dialogue with the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet.
In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon informed China that he would not attend the ceremony, a spokeswoman said.
Preparations for the Games were rocked last month when Tibetans staged violent protests against Chinese rule and security forces cracked down on monks and other supporters of the exiled Dalai Lama in several parts of western China. The clashes sparked sympathy protests and calls for the boycott around the world.
A new Chinese law, in theory, allows journalists to travel freely throughout the country this year and to interview any willing subject without advance permission, apart from special permits needed for travel to Tibet. But the law has not been enforced. Foreign journalists continue to be detained while covering sensitive stories and, in most cases, cannot get permission to visit Tibet.
"For us, freedom of expression is something that is absolute. It's a human right," IOC President Jacques Rogge said in Beijing, where he faced repeated questions about human rights, politics and disruptions earlier this week in Europe and San Francisco of the traditional Olympic torch relay.
The Olympic flame arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Thursday. Argentine authorities are deploying 1,300 federal police, 1,500 naval police and some 3,000 traffic police and volunteers for security.
"There are small restrictions in not making propaganda or demonstrations in Olympic venues, like on the podium. ... We are a movement of 205 nationalities, and many of these nationalities are in conflict with each other," Rogge said. The IOC will provide athletes with guidance on what constitutes propaganda, he added, "and we'll do this with a lot of common sense."
His comments were a sharp departure from previous statements in which he avoided any mention of politics. Beijing quickly rejected his remarks and said they amounted to meddling in its internal affairs.
The Public Security Bureau said Thursday it had broken up two terrorist cells made up of ethnic Uighur separatists. Chinese officials said the separatists had been trained abroad and were operating under orders from the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement.
The Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic group numbering about 16 million, have long chafed under the Han Chinese-dominated government in Beijing.
Chinese security officials regularly say they have discovered underground separatist plots. But the details offered Thursday of explosive vests, poison and kidnapping plans against foreigners — including, they said, foreign journalists — were unusual. If confirmed, the discovery of the vests might indicate plans for suicide bombings, a tactic that so far the group is not known to have used in China.
Information from The New York Times is included in this report.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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