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With 100 days to go until the Beijing Olympics, Amnesty International today launched the first in a series of four hard-hitting animated films highlighting human rights abuses linked to the Chinese authorities' hosting of the Games, in particular the risks of peacefully protesting in China.
Amnesty is campaigning for Ye Guozhu, imprisoned and reportedly tortured with electro-shock batons after he protested at forced evictions in Beijing. Ye Guozhu's home and family restaurant had been bulldozed to make way for Olympics construction.
"Amnesty is not against the Games but we want people to know what else is happening in China - including the silencing of critics and peaceful protesters - and to join our campaign for urgent human rights reform," said Tim Hancock, UK campaigns director. "People who speak out about human rights in China are being persecuted and locked up ahead of the Olympics. Torture is commonplace. Right now we're demanding the release of Ye Guozhu, who was arrested and tortured just for protesting when his home was bulldozed to make way for Olympics venues. The Chinese authorities promised when bidding for the Olympics that hosting the Games would improve human rights. Rather than honour these promises, the government has cracked down on dissent more rigorously than before."
The amnesty.org.uk/china - Amnesty website has created a section devoted to the cause where people can start their own blog, send letters/emails, share content and more.
Animation collective Sweetworld TV created the ads. The cute characters used were influenced by characters such as Hello Kitty. Yasmeen Ismail of Sweetworld TV, the animator behind the films, is half Chinese and spent many summer school holidays in Hong Kong. During these family trips she became influenced by 'Hello Kitty' and other 'kawaii' characters.
She said, "With animation you can create a lot of emotion. The characters in the Amnesty China campaign are quite innocent and cuddly. When something horrific happens the impact is greater because you have built up a bond with them. These characters just want to have a good time and express themselves freely. They are like children playing a game and the 'policeman' comes over and spoils it all. Working on this project with Amnesty has really opened my eyes to China's situation. I feel angry, fired up and helpless all at the same time. I feel sad for the Chinese people and disturbed by their government."