I am writing to you in my capacity as Sports Spokesperson for the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.
I wish the Kiwi team every success in their Olympic events. I will keenly follow the performance of our team.
My greatest hope for New Zealand’s athletes is for you to ensure they are given full rights of free speech as guaranteed in our Bill of Rights, and you will not allow them to be discouraged from speaking freely.
It is clear to all the world that China has not met its responsibility to the Olympic Charter to promote ‘a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity’.
Since you arrived in Beijing, the Chinese government has:
Arrested people in Beijing for protesting evictions or raising pro-Tibet slogans.
Continued its blocking of pro-democracy websites.
Restricted foreign media access to such places as Tiananmen Square.
Kept up its persecution of Tibetan monks.
The promise China made when given the hosting rights for the 2008 Games was to improve human rights and allow freedom of movement and uncensored access to the internet.
This has not happened.
It is certain that athletes from some countries will make dignified statements on human rights problems in Tibet and China. Some athletes will express concern at the Chinese government’s support of some repressive regimes like that in the Sudan. Others will complain about how the smog affects their performance and health, or comment on inconvenience caused by the excessive security measures.
Critical statements must come from the athlete’s own conscience. It would be wrong to pressure New Zealand athletes to follow suit. My strong belief is that it would also be wrong to discourage them from doing so.
Peoples’ rights – and the environment – have suffered so the elite athletes of the world may compete in China. Many New Zealanders back home will be proud of any Kiwi athlete who expresses sympathy for those who have suffered.
Keith Locke MP