- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2001

A bipartisan coalition in Congress wants to ensure the International Olympic Committee rejects Beijing's bid to host the 2008 Summer Games.

The lawmakers contend in a proposed resolution that China's "extrajudicial killings, use of torture, forced confessions, arbitrary arrest and detention of prisoners" disqualify the Communist regime as an Olympics host. They also cited persecution of religious groups such as the Falun Gong and other human rights violations.

By midafternoon yesterday, 52 representatives, including House Majority Whip Tom Delay of Texas and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri had co-sponsored Rep. Tom Lantos' proposal to oppose Beijing as the site of the Olympics.

The resolution calls for China to release political prisoners and to ratify the United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The proposal also directs Secretary of State Colin Powell "to encourage other nations to endorse and support" a campaign for human rights in China. And it directs copies of the measure to be transmitted to all members of the International Olympic Committee.

Sens. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, and Paul Wellstone, Minnesota Democrat, have said they soon will introduce a companion resolution in the Senate.

Mr. Lantos, California Democrat and ranking member of the House Committee on International Relations, is a native of Hungary. He fought the Nazis as a teen-aged member of the resistance during World War II and later survived the Holocaust.

At a news conference, Mr. Lantos, 73, said: "China's abominable human rights record violates the spirit of the Games. This repressive regime does not deserve the international legitimacy this honor bestows."

The congressman recalled the 1936 Olympics hosted by Nazi Germany, noting: "History shows that Olympic hosts gain immeasurably in international esteem. This goes for dictatorships as well as democracies… . Hitler basked in the international limelight the Games afforded him."

In 1993, Mr. Lantos sponsored a similar resolution opposing China's bid for the 2000 Olympics. The measure passed in the House. Subsequently, the Olympic Committee chose Sydney, Australia, over Beijing.

Chinese officials are acutely aware their human rights record may again jeopardize Beijing's Olympics bid. According to various press accounts, they beseeched Olympics officials who visited Beijing in February not to consider human rights issues when deciding on the Olympics site.

The Chinese government promised the committee it would spend some $20 billion on roads, stadiums, subways and various Olympic facilities if Beijing becomes the Olympics venue.

And to ensure that human rights issues were not raised while Olympic Committee officials were visiting, Chinese police reportedly locked members of the banned China Democracy Party in hotel rooms. Chinese officials also sentenced a democracy advocate to two years in prison for signing a petition that urged the Olympic Committee to plead for the release of China's political prisoners.

Olympic officials have said they will not comment on Beijing's bid for the Games except to say that the city is a "serious contender."

In a statement announcing introduction of his resolution, Mr. Lantos praised the Chinese people and said he had the "deepest admiration and respect for the people of China."

He concluded: "The Chinese people deserve the Games. China's repressive regime, however, does not."


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