British athletes who want to compete in the summer Olympics will be required to sign a contract promising not to make statements critical of the communist regime’s human rights record or they will not be permitted to travel to China, according to a 32-page document prepared by the British Olympic Association.
“There are all sorts of organizations who would like athletes to use the Olympic Games as a vehicle to publicize their causes,” Simon Clegg, BOA’s chief executive, told the London Daily Mail.
“I don’t believe that is in the interest of the team performance. As a team we are ambassadors of the country and we have to conform to an appropriate code of conduct.”
While this is the first time the clause prohibiting any kind of political statement about the hosting country has been included in the BOA contract, the British team is not alone. New Zealand and Belgium also make the same requirement of those who qualify to compete in Beijing.
According to BOA, any athlete who refuses to sign the contract will not be allowed to travel to Beijing, and any competitor who signs it and later makes statements critical of China will be immediately put on a plane back to the UK.
The clause, which will be in effect from when the athletes are selected for the team in July until the close of the games on Aug. 24, reads: “[Athletes] are not to comment on any politically sensitive issues.”
Competitors are referred to Section 51 of the International Olympic Committee charter, which “provides for no kind of demonstration, or political, religious or racial propaganda in the Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”
WND reported China has plans to target 43 types of people with investigations – and possibly bans – when the 2008 Olympics are held in Beijing.
Those targeted will include “religious infiltrators,” employees of media organizations, those tied to “illegal” religious organizations and others, according to information from a “secretly issued” notice from China’s Ministry of Public Security that went to security officials and departments throughout the nation.
Additionally, organizations that monitor persecution against Christians have reported crackdowns against believers in advance of the Olympics as part of an effort to sweep away any groups that would challenge the image Beijing’s leaders want to present to the world. In one case, a pastor and his elderly mother were arrested for walking by one of the Olympic construction sites.
In November, China denounced media reports Bibles would be banned in in Olympic facilities, despite a warning on the Olympic Games’ official website, which outlines the process to enter China, advising athletes, visitors and journalists they should bring no more than a single Bible with them to the Games. Chinese authorities have the right to inspect any and all luggage of those entering the country.
But with the Olympic association in visiting countries forcing their athletes to sign speech-ban contracts, there may be little for Chinese authorities to worry about.
BOA’s decision to ban criticism is likely to cause a public outcry, Edward McMillan-Scott, Conservative member of the European Parliament and the body’s vice-president, said, encouraging the government to tell BOA to remove the offending clause.
He noted athletes’ blogs and e-mails home will have to be self-censored to avoid being sent home.
“It is extraordinary to bar athletes from expressing an opinion about China’s human-rights record. About the only justification for participating in the Beijing Games is that it offers an opportunity to encourage more awareness about human rights,” said Lord David Alton.
“Imposing compulsory vows of silence is an affront to our athletes, and in China it will be viewed as acquiescence.
“Each year 8,000 executions take place in China, political and religious opinion is repressed, journalists are jailed and the Internet and overseas broadcasts are heavily censored. For our athletes to be told that they may not make any comment makes a mockery of our own country’s belief in free speech.”