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Tom Brake Questions the Minister for the Olympics About Human Rights

May 18, 2008 10:11 PM

Last Monday (12th May 2008) during Olympic Oral Questions, Tom Brake MP for Carshalton and Wallington challenged the Minister for the Olympics, Tessa Jowell MP, to make clear her views on whether, given China's human rights' record, she should be attending the Beijing Olympics.

In his question, Tom Brake referred to the report published by Amnesty International (of which Mr Brake is an active member) in April 2008. This report revealed that the current wave of oppression in China is occurring not in spite of the Olympics but because of it.

In response to the question, Tessa Jowell highlighted that China had made a commitment to the International Olympic Committee to increase press freedom, however she failed to directly answer Mr Brake's question.

Tom said, "It is debatable how much press freedom there is in China. But what is not in doubt, is that the human rights of Tibetans are being trampled on. Our Government must use their influence to secure a major improvement in human rights in Tibet."

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg MP has recently written to the Prime Minister urging him to reconsider his participation in any future events to mark the Beijing Games. In his letter Mr Clegg stated:

Serious concerns cannot be swept away under the carpet for the sake of ceremonial duties. Unless and until China takes steps to honour the spirit of the Olympics, as laid out in the Olympic Charter, I do not believe that the British Prime Minister can attend the Beijing Games in good conscience.

The full exchange between Tom Brake and Tessa Jowell as reported in Hansard is below.

12 May 2008 : Column 1058

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): Amnesty International recently reported that the current wave of oppression in China is occurring not in spite of the Olympics but because of it. Does the Minister intend to

12 May 2008 : Column 1059

attend the Beijing Olympics regardless of China's clear breach of its commitments to the International Olympic Committee?

Tessa Jowell: In practice, the commitments made by China to the IOC were specifically about increasing press freedom. Eighteen months ago, I secured, as did other colleagues in negotiation with counterparts, the free movement of accredited and non-accredited journalists in the run-up to the Olympics. That is a specific and important freedom, which we must now ensure continues after the games in continuing dialogue with China.

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