8/06/2008

Chinese Government Denying Visas to Former Olympic Champions

One would think that the International Olympic Committee would get a commitment from the host country to let in people with a legitimate connection to the Olympics when the hosting decision is made. ABC News has this story:

China's last minute decision to deny a politically active 2006 Olympic gold medalist a visa to attend the Beijing Games is not unique. Chinese authorities have also denied a bronze medalist, a respected New York-based journalist and a Danish sculptor entry to China in recent months -- a sign that Beijing is still cracking down on freedom of expression in the lead up to the Games.

The visa denials highlight how Chinese authorities are worried that human rights activists will bring international attention to politically sensitive topics -- such as press freedom, the Tian An'Men crackdown, and China's problematic role in Africa -- during the Olympics, according to China experts. "By denying visas and entrance into China, the government is choosing to lose face in a small way," said Sharon Hom, director of the New York-based non-profit organization, Human Rights in China. "If these people do protest and garner international attention, [China] would lose face in a big way. There's a lot of anxiety about that." . . .

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