As China prepares to showcase its economic progress by hosting the Summer Olympics this week, let us never forget the reality behind the pageantry and polish: According to Amnesty International, an estimated 500,000 people are currently enduring punitive detention without charge or trial, and millions are unable to access the legal system to seek redress for their grievances. Harassment, surveillance, house arrest and imprisonment of human rights defenders are on the rise, and censorship of the Internet and other media has grown.
Repression of minority groups, including Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongolians and of Falun Gong practitioners and Christians who practice their religion outside state-sanctioned churches continues. While the recent reinstatement of Supreme People’s Court review of death penalty cases may result in lower numbers of executions, China remains the leading executioner in the world.
Even as Adolph Hitler used the 1936 Olympics to showcase the so-called triumph of fascism, China’s leaders hope to pull a similar “smoke and mirrors” transformation of evil into good. We cheer the possibility for stronger international ties through Olympic competition, but let us not forget that political freedom for all people is the only prize worth exalting. —DR