BEIJING: A total of 127 athletes have called on China’s President Hu Jintao to seek a peaceful solution to the Tibet issue and improve the human rights situation, according to an open letter posted online on Thursday.
On the eve of the Beijing Olympic Games, the athletes urged Hu “to protect freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of opinion in your country, including Tibet”.
The letter was based on an initiative called “Sports for Peace.” The webpage containing the open letter said the initiative was taking place in cooperation with International Campaign for Tibet and Amnesty International.
The 127, including more than 40 who will compete in the Games, also urged Hu “to ensure that human rights defenders are no longer intimidated or imprisoned” and to end the death penalty.
“China is the focus of worldwide attention,” the athletes wrote in their brief statement. “Your decision on these issues will determine the success the Olympic Games and the image the world will have of China in the future.”
“We are asking you to respect human rights in China in order to achieve lasting peace and reconciliation.”
Several signatories of the letter were high-profile medal hopes in the Games, which begin on Friday, such as Croatian high jumper Blanka Vlasic and 110m hurdles world record holder Dayron Robles of Cuba.
Signatories scheduled in Beijing for the Games also include American 400m runner DeeDee Trotter and Panamanian long-jumper Irving Saladino.
The Olympics have put the spotlight on China to an extent never seen before, giving critics of the regime a rare chance to focus attention on the nation’s rights record.
Channel News Asia