Human rightsgames

China continues to mistreat its own citizens even as the Olympics approach.

Since Beijing was named host of the 2008 Olympic Games, China has gone to great lengths to clean up its image. Massive preparations have been taking place to ensure that China looks its best when the world begins watching the Olympics this summer. U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice said China is being generally more cooperative in international affairs. While it could be a coincidence, China has suddenly been more helpful with its positions on North Korea and Sudan. We should be cautious in embracing this “new and improved” China, however; it is still home to devastating human rights violations against its own people.

On Tuesday of this week, China agreed to reopen human rights talks with the United States in another attempt to spruce up its image. These talks have been suspended since 2004, and the announcement was certainly well timed. On Wednesday, a congressional hearing in Washington featured witnesses who blasted China’s current situation. Detaining political dissenters, jailing journalists and restricting free speech were among the accusations leveled at China. None of those offenses is anything new. In fact there is at least one new situation associated with the Olympics.

As part of a project to bring drinking water to Beijing, giant canals are being dug to drain neighboring regions. By April, 80 billion gallons will begin flowing from a nearby province into Beijing. In the last 50 years, regional groundwater levels have fallen by 76 feet, and local farmers have had to switch away from water-intensive rice to less lucrative crops. A government official claims that the lives of millions of farmers are at stake, and over 250,000 residents of a nearby province are already facing problems with their drinking water.

While projecting an image of improvement, China continues to stamp on its own people and jeopardize its environmental future. Rather than buy into China’s hype, we should use these Olympics as a chance to scrutinize China’s record and push for some serious reforms. If China fails to act, these Olympic Games could be remembered for all the wrong reasons.