China 'may sully Olympics legacy' over human rights

China's government came under fresh pressure today from a damning human rights report.

China has failed to improve human rights in the run up to the Beijing Olympics and risks "permanently sullying" the legacy of the Games, a charity said.

A damning report by Amnesty International, entitled The Olympics Countdown: Broken Promises, accuses the Chinese authorities of giving empty reassurances over human rights.

Amnesty International UK campaigns director Tim Hancock said: "The Chinese authorities have broken the promises they made when they were granted the Olympics seven years ago.

"They told the world that the Olympics would help bring human rights to China, but the government continues to persecute and punish those who speak out for human rights ahead of the Games.

"The Olympic values have been betrayed by the Chinese government. They must release all imprisoned peaceful activists, allow foreign and national journalists to report freely and make further progress towards the elimination of the death penalty - or risk permanently sullying the legacy of the Olympics."

The report focuses on four key areas: persecution of human rights activists, detention without trial, censorship and the death penalty.

It says most of these have deteriorated in the run up to the Olympics, which begin on August 8.

Amnesty claims several activists are being held in prison or under house arrest and monitored to ensure they do not disrupt the Games.

Mr Hancock added: "World leaders attending the Games - even if it's only the closing ceremony - should send an unequivocal message that they support human rights for the Chinese people.

"They should highlight the cases of individual Chinese human rights activists who have been silenced by the authorities. A failure to do so will give the impression that it is acceptable for a government to host the Olympic Games in an atmosphere of repression and persecution."

Amnesty has also launched an online animation to highlight the plight of human rights activists in China.

It depicts an animated campaigner being shot by a Chinese official.