US Says China Has ‘Nothing To Fear’ From Internet Freedom

WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday ramped up pressure on China to live up to Olympic ideals by ending human rights abuses, as President George W. Bush promised “nothing to fear” from Internet freedom.

With nine days remaining before the Games begin in Beijing, China sparked an uproar with its plans to censor the Internet during the Olympics, and US lawmakers responded by passing a resolution urging China to change its ways.

“President Bush has long said that China has nothing to fear from greater access to the Internet or to the press or from more religious freedom and human freedom and human rights,” press secretary Dana Perino said.

“And that’s one of the things that he talked about yesterday with the dissidents he met with, here at the White House,” she said, declining to comment directly on China’s decision to reverse a pledge to allow unfettered web access for foreign press covering the Games August 8-24.

“We want to see more access for reporters, we want to see more access for everybody in China to be able to have access to the Internet,” Perino said.

“We think that China would be enhanced and continue to prosper if they allowed for more freedom.”

Meanwhile, the US House of Representatives voted 419 to 1 to endorse a resolution asking China to “immediately end abuses of the human rights of its citizens, to cease repression of Tibetan and Uighur citizens, and to end its support for the governments of Sudan and (Myanmar).”

Such action would “ensure that the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games take place in an atmosphere that honours the Olympic traditions of freedom and openness,” the resolution said.

“In exchange for the privilege of hosting the Olympic Games, the Chinese government made commitments on freedom of the press, human rights, and on the environment,” House speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

“Any of these commitments have been violated repeatedly and blatantly.”

Pelosi also called on Bush to use the “tremendous leverage” of his August 8 attendance at the Games opening ceremony to press Beijing on human rights, trade protectionism and the safety of Chinese food exports.

A top White House aide said Wednesday Bush would speak about religious freedom in China when he goes to church two days after the Olympics opening ceremony, and also when he meets with Chinese leadership on the sidelines of the games.

“When he goes to church on Sunday (August 10) he will make a statement afterwards in which he discusses his view on religious freedom in China,” said national security council director of Asian Affairs Dennis Wilder.

“You can deliver the message of freedom without politicising the events of the game,” he added.

“The president will have diplomatic meetings with the Chinese leadership that are separate from the games. And in those meetings with the Chinese leaders he will of course bring up these issues,” Wilder said.

Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee, said China had failed to improve its record on human rights during the run-up to the Games.

“Now is the time to call on China to take immediate, substantial and serious action if there is to be any hope that the Olympic Games will take place in an atmosphere that honours the Olympic spirit of freedom and openness,” he said.

Beijing Olympic organising committee spokesman Sun Weide triggered the latest public relations flare-up when he confirmed that foreign reporters would not have access to some sites deemed sensitive by China’s government.

“During the Olympic Games we will provide sufficient access to the Internet for reporters,” Sun said Wednesday.

However, “sufficient access” falls short of the complete Internet freedoms for foreign reporters that China had promised in the run-up to the Games.

The news also proved an embarrassment for the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which had repeatedly said foreign press would not face any Internet curbs in Beijing.

– AFP/yb

Channel News Asia

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