February 12, 2001
Mr. Hein Verbruggen, Chair
International Olympic Committee
Dear Mr. Verbruggen: By fax: 011-41-21-621-6216
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will select the host city for the 2008 Olympic Games in July after the Evaluation Commission visits the finalists, which include Beijing, Paris, Toronto, Istanbul and Osaka.
The UAW is particularly concerned about the application of Beijing because of the deterioration in the human and labor rights record of the government of the People's Republic of China. Hundreds of worker activists currently are imprisoned in China for exercising internationally recognized labor rights as defined by the International Labor Organization.
It's our hope that the Chinese government's desire to be selected as the host for the 2008 games will result in the release of these labor activists, as well as thousands of other citizens improperly incarcerated in violation of international human rights standards. We have great respect for the Chinese people and know that their commitment to the best human values exemplified by Olympic competition would be evident should the IOC choose Beijing.
Our concern, in short, is not with the Chinese people, but with the Chinese government that, to date, has engaged in massive repression of basic human and labor rights.
I have attached a letter from UAW President Stephen P. Yokich to People's Republic of China President Jiang Zemin detailing cases involving a number of labor activists who currently are incarcerated. The UAW asks that the IOC Evaluation Commission raise these cases with officials of the Chinese government during your visit to Beijing this month. If this cannot be done publicly, we hope you will do so privately.
There are those who attempt to argue that Olympic competition should occur without regard to the world's political problems. That wasn't true in 1936 when Jesse Owens won the Gold in Berlin. It isn't true today. And it won't be true in 2008, particularly if Beijing hosts the Games while many Chinese citizens languish in prison merely for attempting to exercise basic human and labor rights.
We noted IOC executive Jacques Rogge's recent comment that "it is the individual responsibility of each IOC member to make a judgment on the political situation in any of the five candidate cities." The Evaluation Commission has a huge job and we would not presume to interfere in the task ahead. But we would hope that, in the context of Mr. Rogge's comments, you would find it possible to raise the cases of the attached labor activists.
Director of Governmental and International Affairs