China human rights a worry post-Olympics -lawyer

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Hong Kong, Oct 4:  The beating of a Chinese lawyer even as the spotlight shines on Beijing ahead of the Olympics has raised concerns about the government's conduct after the event, but a Games boycott would not help, a Chinese law expert said.

Rights groups and foreign governments see the run-up to the Games next August as an opportunity to press the ruling Communist Party to take serious steps to improve its poor human rights record.

But the abduction and beating of lawyer Li Heping on Saturday, and similar cases in recent months, have led a prominent China watcher and legal scholar, Jerome Cohen, to worry about rights conditions and the post-Games legal environment.

''After the Olympics, God knows what will happen,'' Cohen, a professor at New York University, told the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents' Club.

''If they are allowing beatings of all these lawyers -- and there are many ... now, in the glare of publicity that accompanies Darfur and Zimbabwe and Burma, what will they do when they don't have the Olympics as a potential goal that they want to achieve?'' When Beijing applied to be host city it pledged to the International Olympic Committee to make major improvements, but Cohen said many of the expectations had not been met.

Drawing on a similar example, Cohen noted that the United States lost tremendous leverage over Beijing with respect to the legal reform and specific cases once China made its much-anticipated entry into the World Trade Organisation.

''I think it's too late in the day'' to talk about boycotts, he said today.

''I'm beginning to worry a little about their conduct after the Olympics.'' Li was abducted from the parking lot of his office building by around a dozen men. He was hooded, hauled to a basement and then beaten for several hours, the group Chinese Human Rights Defenders said in a statement. The perpetrators warned him to leave Beijing.

Cohen, who said Li was a friend, called the action ''Hitlerian'' and said such beatings and intimidation could not just be written off as local affairs.

''This is not a local thing. This is done with the approval of the national authorities. We shouldn't kid ourselves,'' he said.


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