Edward McMillan-Scott: Olympic athletes compete under the shadow of genocide

A FEW months ago, to explain my campaign for a political boycott of the Olympics, I described China is a "terror state".

I wish the sportsmen well but I want politicians and senior figures to stay away from the opening ceremony next week to protest at China's appalling – and worsening – human rights record, in Tibet, in Darfur and in China itself.

By coincidence, I had dinner with Prince Charles that night at the British embassy, in Brussels, where he confirmed his decision not to attend. When Steven Spielberg pulled out of designing the opening ceremony, my campaign took off. The architect of the "bird's nest" stadium, Ai Weiwei, had already said he would stay away because of China's "appalling" political conditions.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy weighed in by declaring, after the Olympic flame propaganda shambles, that he had not made up his mind. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has refused to attend, as has the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.

Many MEPs want a political boycott, as increasing reports of a massive purge of dissidents and religious activists filter out of China. The rgime is using terror as never before to control dissent.

In a debate at the European Parliament, every speaker but one condemned China and criticised Sarkozy, who, sadly, announced that day that he would go after all. I suppose that France's nuclear and Airbus contracts must weigh with him.

Even though the current President of the European Council, President Sarkozy, is going, the other two institutions – the European Parliament President, Hans-Gert Poettering and the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso – are both overtly boycotting the ceremony, as is Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the foreign affairs commissioner. So, in EU terms, my campaign has been successful.

Any politician still planning to attend next week should first get informed about what happens in the real, hidden China.

This month, I submitted a dossier to the United Nations on torture and religious freedom in China. It details the treatment of just two of the people I had contact with during my last visit to Beijing, in May 2006. All were subsequently arrested, some imprisoned, and three have been tortured.

Mr Cao Dong was a tour guide in Beijing. When I met him he was 42. He was terrified, but he came to a dingy hotel room to tell me about his life in a prison camp in north-east China. There are about 15 such camps in that province alone, each holding thousands of the seven million Chinese undergoing forced labour, or for many, torture. Cao Dong said that one evening, his best friend was taken from their cell. Next, he saw his friend's cadaver in the morgue with holes where body parts had been removed.

Cao Dong was one of hundreds of thousands of one religious group which the UN's torture specialist, Dr Manfred Nowak, believes make up the majority of torture victims. Falun Gong is a harmless and popular Buddha-school set of spiritual exercises. Its popularity is in part the belief by all practitioners I have met that they have been cured of some malady, and that is important in a country without a health service. Practitioners neither smoke nor drink, and many believe that executed practitioners have been the source for the 40-60,000 recent extra organ transplant operations, a profitable monopoly organised by the People's Liberation Army.

By 1999, the Falun Gong movement, founded seven years earlier, had between 70-100 million adherents when the paranoid premier, Jiang Zemin, decided to persecute it.

A Gestapo-like network of "610 Offices" in most towns and cities, named after the June 10, 1999, decree which initiated the scourge, systematically arrests, imprisons and tortures these innocent people, whose watchwords are "truthfulness, compassion, forbearance".

Although there are millions of them they do not have a cuddly, statesmanlike figure such as the Dalai Lama and, because they will not openly demonstrate like the Tibetans and their supporters, they perish and go to their deaths silently.

Earlier this year, the rgime announced that it was adopting a lethal injection as the means of capital punishment instead of a bullet through the head – the mouth was propped open to minimise damage, but still a messy way to kill. It is not hard to understand this change. In one province alone, 16 buses have been specially adapted to perform on-the-spot eviscerations.

Another interview I had in Beijing was with Mr Niu Jinping, then 52, another former prisoner. He told me how his wife was being beaten black and blue in the nearby Beijing Women's Labour Camp, and had lost her sight and hearing. He had lost his job, sold his house, and now subsisted on tips for guarding cars; he was destitute and desperate.

At one point, his wife was taken, unconscious, to the prison hospital after a particularly severe beating caused a cerebral haemorrhage.

Zhang Lianying, now 48, was released in December 2007 after she and her husband – both practitioners – were invited to give evidence to a European Parliament hearing on human rights in China. Both were re-arrested in April this year as part of the pre-Olympic crackdown, especially severe in Beijing.

If we had known what was already taking place in Germany's camps in 1936, the Olympics would not have taken place in Berlin. When US Supreme Court judge Felix Frankfurter was told in 1942 about the death camps by the young Pole, Jan Karski, he said: "I did not say the young man was lying. I said that I am unable to believe him. There is a difference."

There is ample evidence that the rgime in Beijing is guilty of what amounts to genocide against sections of the population under its control. A boycott of the Games, held under the Olympic banner of "universal fundamental ethical principles", is the least we can expect of our leading politicians.