China's Broken Olympic Promises

IOC Hoodwinked by Beijing

What has Ji been charged with? For wanting to protest? For being a regime critic? For seeking to harm China's national image at a time -- the Beijing Olympics -- when preserving its image was paramount? In fact, none of these charges was leveled against him. Ji owes his imprisonment to an entirely different and unexpected charge. He has been sentenced to three years in prison for "the intentional forgery of national documents and sovereign seals." That was the charge, and to comprehend it is to gain a deeper understanding of how China's state security apparatus is structured. It also exposes how naïve and deceitful it was for the IOC to have claimed that China would open itself up for the Olympic Games, and that the games would open up China.

In retrospect, it seems almost laughable that the IOC, particularly its president, Jacques Rogge, allowed itself to be hoodwinked by China on the subject of Olympic ideals. In fact, it is so laughable that one could almost presume that the IOC was in league with the government and party leadership in Beijing from the start and consistently kept both eyes tightly shut when Tibetans were persecuted or Uighurs were branded as terrorists.

When confronted with the results of SPIEGEL's research, the IOC countered with a cool, standard response, arguing that it is a sports organization that lacks the means to look into possible human rights violations. There was no mention of the name Ji Sizun in the IOC's letter.

His story begins with a photograph taken by Danish photographer Mads Nissen on Aug. 11, 2008, on the fourth day of the impressive Beijing Games. The photo depicts Ji, who was 58 at the time, still dressed in the white, short-sleeved shirt and worn trousers he had been wearing that morning when he submitted his application. He is accompanied by two men dressed in civilian clothes, who are seen forcing him into a minivan. Shortly afterwards Ji was reached once, briefly, on his mobile phone before his service was disconnected. After Aug. 11, not even his family could reach him. He had simply disappeared without a trace.

In China, the bloggers and citizen reporters, the tough and half-baked democrats alike that now exist throughout the country assumed the worst at the time. They expected that Ji would soon end up in a labor camp and later in a reeducation camp, and they did not rule out the possibility that he would be killed in an alleged accident. But, as it now appears, he was initially taken to the National Petition Office, so that he could present his case once more behind closed doors.

Delegates from his home province, Fujian, were already waiting for him. This is a unique characteristic of Chinese political life. The country's provinces, as well as its major cities, maintain liaison offices and guesthouses in Beijing, and they remain responsible for their own people whenever they happen to be in the capital or elsewhere.

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