Looking Back: 4 Broken Promises of the Beijing 2008 Olympics

August 5, 2015 Updated: August 5, 2015

In the 2001 bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, the Chinese regime made grand promises to quell outcries about its human rights violations and environmental abuses. But in the years that followed, the Chinese Communist Party broke them all.

1. Press Freedom

“We will give the media complete freedom to report when they come to China” said Wang Wei, Secretary General of the Beijing Olympic Bid Committee.

But to prevent negative coverage, many foreign journalists were refused entry into China. The ones that were allowed in found that sites like those involving Tibet, the Tiananmen Square massacre, or the persecuted spiritual group of Falun Gong, remained blocked. Reporters who attempted to publicize these sensitive issues were detained and their reports suppressed.

2. Human Rights

The Olympics Games will “benefit the further development of our human rights cause,” said Liu Qi, Mayor of Beijing.

But contrary to these claims, torture, arbitrary detention, and reeducation through labor increased. In the months before the Olympics, the Chinese Communist Party imprisoned hundreds of dissidents. When Tibetan riots and demonstrations erupted in March of 2008, the Chinese regime cracked down on the protesters, detaining thousands and killing hundreds, while preventing journalists from entering affected regions, according to Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan activist.

The Chinese regime also intensified the suppression of Falun Gong, authorizing hundreds of illegal arrests across China, according to Minghui.org, a website carrying firsthand reports of the persecution. And practitioners in Beijing labor camps were relocated elsewhere to avoid media scrutiny.

The U.S. Congress’s Human Rights Caucus issued a statement in early July 2008 that “strongly condemned” the Chinese regime’s crackdown on the Uyghurs, China’s Muslim minority. Congressman Frank Wolf said, “The Chinese government should not be permitted to use the ‘war on terror’ or Olympic security as a front to persecute the Uighurs.”

3. Displacements and Evictions

In 2002, the Chinese regime pledged in a Beijing Olympics Action Plan to pay “special attention” to conserving buildings in old Beijing, a historic neighborhood of famous “hutong” alleyways. But authorities disregarded their pledge, demolishing homes and evicting residents to make way for new infrastructure. According to the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, over a million Beijing residents were displaced and denied proper compensation or access to legal recourse

4. Air Pollution

The Chinese regime pledged that by 2008, air pollution levels would meet the standards of the World Health Organization.

But Steven Andrews, an environmental consultant in Beijing, told the Washington Post that air quality was actually worse in 2007 than in 2001. Chinese authorities only succeeded in reducing air pollution during the Olympics through short-term measures like closing factories, halting construction, and keeping half the city’s cars off the road.