Friday, April 04, 2008

Nick Cleggs Message on Olympic Torch

Today I have written to the Prime Minister asking him to pull out of this weekend’s ceremony welcoming the Olympic torch to London in advance of the Beijing Games.

When China made its bid to host the Olympics, the Deputy Mayor of Beijing said that this was an indication of China’s wish to “promote” democracy and human rights.

But it has done nothing of the sort.

Recent events in Tibet, broken promises over media freedoms, ongoing human rights abuses and intransigence over the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur have made a mockery of China’s “commitment” to progressive freedoms.

As the prospective host of the 2012 Games, Britain has a particular responsibility to hold China to account for its broken promises and its poor record on human rights.

Gordon Brown should not attend this weekend’s event or any future events to mark the Beijing Games - including the opening ceremony on 8th August – until China lives up to the expectations placed upon it by the Olympic Charter. The Charter states that “Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles”.

China should do that by taking four clear steps.

First, President Hu Jintao should agree to meet the Dalai Lama for face-to-face talks on a mutually acceptable solution to the contested status of Tibet and the treatment of Tibetans.

Second, China should honour its commitment to allow the free access of foreign journalists to all parts of the country and to talk to any individual who gives consent to be interviewed: China should not use the Olympics as an excuse to further restrict the freedom of its domestic media.

Third, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China should use its influence in Khartoum to remove obstacles to the United Nations-African Mission in Darfur.

Fourth, China should demonstrate its commitment to civil and political rights by ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

I believe firmly in the spirit of the Olympic Games, and in the value of human rights and civil liberties.

We should use the opportunity of the Olympic Games to exert pressure on China to live up to those values; and the British government should express its clear disapproval until it does so.

Best wishes,

Nick Clegg MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats

P.S. Many Liberal Democrat members and supporters will be joining the demonstrations on Sunday. You can find details on our website
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