Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Smog and Tyranny Games

Pity the poor Chinese government. After the crack downs at Tiananmen Square in 1989, that government was forced to endure world criticism and losing its most favored nation status for a brief period. Amazingly, given those harsh punishments of the early 1990s, the Chinese government continues to repress dissent within its borders (even those "borders" that include Tibet) and try its best to imitate the British Government of the 19th century in African policy.

And the world responds by . . . well, not by doing much, at least on the governmental scale. Individuals and Non Government Organizations on the other hand, have been hard at work - using the national spotlight the games gives China to remind us that repression, torture and genocide aren't necessarily the tools of a government seeking world support. (Then again, each has been used by American governments over the last 200 years, not that we've ever cared much for world support -- maybe we're the model China is emulating after all.)

As the Olympic torch was moved through London, it took over 2,000 police to keep protesting crowds away from the runners.

The most intense scuffles on Sunday occurred as the torch moved through the heart of London, from the fashionable residential district of Notting Hill Gate through Hyde Park, Oxford Street, Trafalgar Square and Whitehall, before crossing the Thames and moving east to Tower Hill and on toward its destination at the future British Olympic site. The torch was protected by an inner guard of Chinese security men wearing blue-and-white Olympic tracksuits and an outer cordon of yellow-jacketed British policemen on foot, on bicycles and motorbikes.

At points along the route where the crowds of protesters were thickest, including Whitehall, Scotland Yard security chiefs deployed double rows of crush barriers in a bid to keep the demonstrators back. Where streets narrowed, including Oxford Street, the torch was placed in the back of a single-decker bus and returned to the runners only after the crowds had thinned.
While British PM Brown has said that he'll be at the games, French president Sarkozy has said he would boycott them unless China cleaned up its act, at least a little. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Czech President Vaclav Klause said they would not travel to Beijing for opening ceremonies in August because of the crackdown in Tibet. Within the Bush administration, Geo says that he'll be going, but I anticipate that VP Cheney will rush his butt on over to China months before the games start to trade government repression secrets with his peers. And there's so much for them to chat about, as the WSJ notes:

Although China has a long tradition of stifling dissent, Beijing itself promised human-rights improvements for the coming Olympic Games. That makes the case of Hu Jia -- an AIDS activist and blogger who was sentenced to three and a half years in prison after using the Olympics to criticize China's record on human rights -- even more disturbing.

As Geoffrey A. Fowler and Sky Canaves report, the high-profile verdict, after a Beijing court found Mr. Hu guilty of subversion and libel, heightens concerns among human-rights activists that the Beijing Olympics, instead of improving China's rights record, may actually be intensifying a crackdown on dissent. In the city's 2001 pitch for the Games, Liu Jingmin, then deputy mayor, said "by applying for the Olympics, we want to promote not just the city's development, but the development of society, including democracy and human rights."

Amnesty International officials agree with this sentiment, noting that the months leading to the games may be very dangerous for those within China who dare to speak their minds.

China's crackdown on peaceful activists has deepened in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics, according to Amnesty International.

The human rights group has accused Chinese authorities of using "excessive, sometimes lethal" force to disperse protesters in Tibet, and of imprisoning human rights protesters in Beijing in a pre-Games "clean-up"."The crackdown has deepened, not lessened," said Amnesty International's Australian director Claire Mallinson."This is because of, not despite, the Olympics."

Chen Yonglin, a former first secretary in the Chinese consulate-general in Sydney, said he expected more activists to be placed under house arrest as the crackdown would probably continue until July, one month before the Games. The former diplomat, who left his post in 2005 and was granted a permanent protection visa by Australia, said Chinese authorities were also "clearing out" some 300,000 so-called "petitioners" from the outskirts of Beijing.

Petitioners are peasants from rural China who travel to the capital seeking legal redress on a range of issues. Amnesty's Australian China Campaign Coordinator, Sophie Peer, said there had been "serious human rights violations" in recent days."These actions cast doubt on whether the Chinese authorities are really serious about improving human rights in the lead-up to the Games," she said.

The issue of boycotting the Chinese Olympics this summer has been bouncing around in nation after nation. China's foreign ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu has been quoted as saying that boycotting the games "is the same as leaving the Olympic family. It will undermine their own interests. . . . We have been opposed to boycotting the Olympic Games for any reason. It is a sports event for people around the world. It is not a venue for the discussion of political issues or a platform to give a political show.''

Wat Jiang forgot to mention is that in 1980, China boycotted the Moscow Olympics (as did the US). Apparently what was good for China in 1980 is not good for the rest of the world in 2008.

2 Comments:

Blogger buckarooskidoo said...

As much as I dislike the Chinese government as a matter of principle, i think it would be a mistake for the world not to attend...Jimmy Carter held our team out of the Moscow Olympics in l980, and that accomplished basically nothing. You should always send as many people from democratic societies into dictatorships, so as to forge those millions of subversive little people-to-people contacts that undermine the dictators' foundation.

On the other hand...I think any athlete who values his or her health will stay as far away from Beijing as he/she can. Imagine the marathon being run in the worst air imaginable, in AUGUST(!)...

11:05 PM  
Blogger adrian2514 said...

Hey thanks for the great blog, I love this stuff. I don’t usually read much into politics but with the election coming up (not to mention the dem primaries) and everyone going green these days I thought I would leave a comment.

I am trying to find more about the government and if they are going to ratify the Kyoto Protocol any time soon. Has anyone seen this pole on EarthLab.com http://www.earthlab.com/life.aspx . It said 75% of people think the government should ratify the Kyoto Protocol on Earth Day (when I took it). I also saw something on Wikipedia but it wasn’t up to date. Any other thoughts on where the government is going with this?

I am looking for more info on what candidates’ opinions are how are we are going to get closer to solutions. Drop a link of you see anything worth my time.

5:48 PM  

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