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‘Sad day for human rights,’ Land says of Beijing Olympics

WASHINGTON (BP)–The selection of Beijing to be host of the 2008 Summer Olympics marked a “sad day” for human rights, Southern Baptist public policy specialist Richard Land said.

The International Olympic Committee voted July 13 to grant the Chinese city the highly coveted prize of holding the games. Beijing easily outdistanced four other cities in balloting by the IOC’s members.

“It’s a sad day for human rights in the world when the regime that is currently trampling the rights of more human beings than any other government in the world is rewarded by being given the recognition that goes with being selected the host of the Olympic Games,” said Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “It is like taking the recalcitrant, obstreperous bully who has been sentenced to detention hall four out of five days of every week the entire school year and giving him the Good Citizen of the Year award.”

Critics from across the political spectrum had opposed Beijing’s campaign to win the bid. They pointed to numerous human rights violations by China’s communist regime — including increasing persecution of Christians and other religious adherents; a coercive population control policy that has resulted in forced abortions and sterilizations in some areas of the world’s most populous country; the recent mass executions of many prisoners; and a trade in human organs taken from the newly executed.

Rep. Tom Lantos, D.-Calif., co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, said the IOC vote “truly boggles the mind,” according to Reuters News Service. “This decision will allow the Chinese police state to bask in the reflected glory of the Olympic Games despite having one of the most abominable human rights records in the world,” Lantos said.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in a written statement the vote “sends a message to the leaders of China that their appalling and worsening record on religious freedom … does not matter to the rest of the world.”

The panel, which consists of appointees by the president and congressional leaders, cited as part of China’s record during the last year “arrest and harassment of unregistered Protestant and Roman Catholic Christians; hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners tortured and murdered in police custody and some incarcerated in psychiatric hospitals; closures of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and interference in private Buddhist worship; executions of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang; and the desecration and destruction of thousands of worship sites.”

The commission also expressed disappointment in President Bush’s decision to remain neutral on Beijing’s candidacy for the Olympics. In May, the USCIRF urged Bush to find ways to oppose China’s bid.

The panel said it hopes the president “will now join with leaders of all other Olympic countries to press China to live up to the obligations it has undertaken to ensure.”

Beijing, which needed a majority of votes from IOC members, won the election on the second round of balloting. It had 56 votes, while Toronto and Paris had 22 and 18, respectively, according to United Press International. Istanbul, Turkey, and Osaka, Japan, were the other candidates.