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China's Olympian Challenges

Interviewee: Minky Worden, Media Director, Human Rights Watch
Interviewer: Jayshree Bajoria
May 19, 2008

As the 2008 Summer Olympic Games hosted by Beijing draw closer, China faces increasing pressures for reform on issues ranging from human rights to press freedom. Minky Worden, media director at Human Rights Watch and editor of a new book on human rights in China, says Beijing's promise to improve human rights and open up its society played a significant role in Beijing's selection as the host of the 2008 Games. With less than three months before the games begin, she says, "those promises are not being honored." Worden cites the Seoul Games of 1988 as an important precedent, noting they galvanized change in South Korea. In the period ahead of the games, she says, the country began the transformation from a dictatorship to a democracy. South Korea in 1988 and China in 2008 are "obviously two very different countries," Worden says, but adds: "No country is ever the same after the Olympics." One of the great challenges of the Olympics for the Chinese government, says Worden, is balancing domestic pressures for reform in restive areas such as Xinjiang and Tibet with "the international community's expectations that the country will play an increasingly positive role in crises from Burma to North Korea to Sudan."

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