US lawmaker fears 'genocide' Beijing Olympics

AFP | May 1, 2007

A senior US lawmaker warned Tuesday that China must not be allowed to turn the 2008 Olympics into the "genocide" Games and demanded US security aid for the sports festival must safeguard human rights.

Democratic Representative Tom Lantos raised his concerns directly with Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, a day after Amnesty International warned China was using the Olympics as a catalyst for repression.

"We don't want these Olympics to go down in the history books as the genocide Olympics," said Lantos, chairman of the House of Representatives committee on foreign affairs.

Lantos called on the US government to ensure security cooperation with Beijing, designed to protect the Games from terror attacks, would not in any way infringe basic human rights and free expression.

Last week, five Americans were expelled from China after staging an illegal protest at Mount Everest base camp in Tibet.

China lodged an official protest with the United States over the protest, in which the Americans called for Tibetan independence and voiced outrage at the 2008 Olympic torch passing through the Himalayan region.

Beijing has also been at odds with Taiwan, which it regards as a breakaway province, over a plan to take the torch through the island.

"It is outrageous that China is using the very symbol of international unity and brotherhood to further grind down the Tibetans and the Taiwanese who simply want to live their lives without interference from Beijing," Lantos said.

Negroponte said US security assistance for China during the 2008 Games was being conducted through the State Department and the US embassy in Beijing, but pledged to get back to members of Congress with further details.

Rights group Amnesty Monday gave China a failing grade in its third report since 2005 on the Olympic host nation's respect for international human rights standards in the run-up to the Beijing Games.

Citing "little evidence of reform" in several areas, the report painted a bleak picture showing the Olympics "as a catalyst (for) a continued crackdown on human rights defenders, including prominent rights defense lawyers and those attempting to report on human rights violations."

China dismissed the report as biased and insisted it was making progress on human rights.

The group said the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which awarded Beijing the 2008 Games, should pressure China on human rights issues in the run-up to the sporting extravaganza.

The IOC executive board said recently it had no such leverage.