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  • Advocacy Group Calls on IOC, Olympic Sponsors to Form Internal Human Rights Body


    08/20/08

    Coke and GE get pointed criticism in the HRW report. (Getty Images)
    (ATR) Human Rights Watch says Olympic sponsors should urge the International Olympic Committee to formally monitor human rights abuses in future Games host countries, in light of what the group calls a "failure" of the companies' pledges to demonstrate corporate social responsibility.

    "The Olympic sponsors claim to be good corporate citizens," HRW Asia advocacy director Sophie Richardson said.

    "But as they enjoy the Games from the comfort of their seats at the Olympic stadium, they should reflect on their failure to speak up for the Chinese citizens who built the stadium and their hotels, clean their hotel rooms, serve their meals or, in the case of Chinese journalists, try to bring them their news."

    A series of investigations by the New York-based organization documents human rights abuses in China that they say make the Games not a force for good but a catalyst of tighter repression. And, by bankrolling the Games, sponsors are part of the problem, according to HRW.

    Coca-Cola and General Electric come in for strong criticism as they are both members of the Business Leaders Initiative on Human Rights, an industry organization with the self-avowed aim of finding "practical" ways to promote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    HRW also released excerpts of closed-door meetings with representatives from five of the 12 members of TOP, the Olympics’ worldwide sponsorship program.

    HRW alleges that thousands of evictions for Games-time construction were illegal. (Getty Images)
    "It would be inappropriate for us to take up human rights issues around the Olympics,” one company representative is quoted as saying in a meeting. “The question is about appropriate roles and responsibilities." HRW did not release the identity of the speaker or the company.

    Representatives of the other seven TOP sponsors declined to meet with HRW, according to the advocacy group. None of the 12 companies met the six demands laid out by HRW, which included public avowal of the language in the Olympic Charter that calls for "preservation of human dignity", and a pledge to urge the IOC to form a mechanism to address human rights abuses in future host countries. The HRW statement points out that Russia is a future Olympic host, but does not mention the U.K.

    HRW reports during the last several months detail cases of detention without trial for housing activists, including one lawyer who allegedly sustained permanent injuries in a prison beating. The group also claims a list of "hundreds" of cases of obstruction of journalists plus crackdowns on migrant workers illegally residing in Beijing.

    Written by Maggie Lee

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