Olympic protest staged over China's human rights

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland, Oct 16 (Reuters) Media freedom group Reporters Without Borders protested outside Lausanne's Olympic museum on Monday over what it said was a crackdown on human rights in China ahead of next year's Beijing Games.

Some 15 activists from the Paris-based body held up black-and-red banners showing the five Olympic rings in the form of manacles and chanted slogans calling on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to take a stand on the issue.

''Today in China there is no political, religious, trade union or media freedom,'' founder and general secretary of the group Robert Menard told journalists yesterday.

''There are thousands of political prisoners and thousands of executions every year. All this is the total opposite to the Olympic spirit.'' Menard said his organisation, also known under its French name Reporters Sans Frontieres or RSF, set up the protest to coincide with the opening on Monday of the 17th Congress of China's ruling Communist Party and of an IOC technical meeting.

The museum, on the shores of Switzerland's Lake Leman, is run by the IOC which also has its headquarters in Lausanne.

In a statement on the protest, RSF said that the run-up to the Congress in China had seen new restrictions slapped on all sectors of the media, including newspapers, television, radio and the Internet, as well as on foreign journalists.

Menard called on IOC President Jacques Rogge to make good a pledge in 2001 when Beijing was given the Games that there would be changes for the better in the rights situation in China.

IOC officials say that in dealings with the Chinese authorities they routinely point out a host country's obligations to observe human rights and dignity.

REUTERS TB AS0958

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