By Megha Rajagopalan
BEIJING (Reuters) - China has assured the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of its respect for human rights as part of its bid to host the 2022 Winter Games, an Olympic panel said on Monday, prompting anger from Tibetan groups.
The Olympic Evaluation Commission said in a report that China had provided "written assurances" of its commitment to press freedom, the right to demonstrate, labor rights and environmental protection in the context of the Games.
"The Commission is confident that the Government of China would take all necessary measures to ensure the Olympic Charter ... would be respected," the report said.
The charter says "social responsibility and universal fundamental ethical principles" are part of the philosophy of the Olympics.
Media and the internet are tightly controlled in China. Independent U.S.-based watchdog Freedom House says Beijing this year has further curbed political freedoms and civil liberties and has rejected judicial oversight of Communist Party actions.
"Harassment of previously tolerated civil society organizations, labor leaders, academics and state-sanctioned churches has intensified," it said.
When Beijing hosted the summer Olympic Games in 2008, rights groups criticized the government for forcibly relocating locals and cracking down on dissent.
China has long argued that it is unfairly singled out for criticism of its human rights record and says other governments should examine their own records before hurling accusations.
Tibetan groups say repression in the Himalayan region worsened after the 2008 Olympics and have urged the IOC, the ultimate arbiter on any question relating to the Games, to reject Beijing's bid.
China has ruled Tibet with an iron fist since troops "peacefully liberated" the region in 1950.
Human rights groups say China tramples on the rights of Tibetans and employs brutal methods to enforce its rule. More than 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 in protest against Chinese rule. Most have died.
"Given the IOC's knowledge of the ongoing brutal repression across China and Tibet, we get the impression that the IOC is prepared to turn a blind-eye as if these actions are an irrelevant detail," said Tenzin Jigdal of the India-based International Tibet Network in a statement.
China says its policies in Tibet have raised living standards and helped to develop the economy.
Beijing is competing with Almaty, Kazakhstan, in its bid to host the 2022 Games. The IOC will pick the winner in July.
In its report, the IOC Evaluation Commission said Beijing could stage a "highly successful" Olympic Winter Games but expressed concern about air quality. Smog blankets many Chinese cities.
The Chinese government has promised measures to mitigate air pollution, the report said.
(Reporting by Megha Rajagopalan; editing by Katharine Houreld)