German official: human rights still weak in China

Aug. 07, 2008, 12:53 p.m. (ET)

BERLIN (AP) Germany's human rights commissioner criticized China on Thursday for arresting dissidents in the run-up to the Olympic Games, and said allowing Beijing to host the games has failed to improve the country's human rights situation.

Guenter Nooke said in a telephone interview from Beijing that planning for the games has improved the "social" condition for most Chinese by generating construction and improving the mood in Beijing. But he criticized the communist government for failing to use the chance to introduce democratic changes.

He said he would not attend the opening ceremony on Friday in opposition to Beijing's attempt to use the event to improve its image.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she would not attend because the opening ceremony conflicts with her vacation. German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung and Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble are going to the games - but not until after the opening.

Nooke criticized China's government, which has rounded up opponents ahead of the Olympics and put restrictions on journalists, betraying promises made when it landed the hosting rights.

"The ruling party cannot be criticized, the Chinese leadership forbids any kind of protest," he said. "And you can't even speak of a free expression of opinion, freedom of the press or the freedom of assembly."

Nooke said, "There's been no fundamental improvement of basic human rights."

The commissioner has been in Beijing since Tuesday, meeting with academics and representatives of civil society and the media to assess China's human rights situation.