Sunday, April 22, 2007

An Olympic boycott is on track

An excellent editorial.

Taipei Times: Saturday, Apr 21, 2007, Page 8 - It was pleasing to see actress and UNICEF goodwill ambassador Mia Farrow put some pressure on Chinese diplomats a few weeks ago when, in view of the Darfur atrocities and China's loathsome role in Sudan, she asked film director Steven Spielberg a rather direct question.

The question was: Wouldn't Spielberg be a latter-day Leni Riefenstahl if he continued to work on the opening and closing ceremonies in Beijing?

This is something we also asked some time ago, and it would be interesting to hear a direct response to the question from Spielberg himself. How interesting a direct response it might be, too, given that Spielberg's indirect response in recent days had a startling effect: The image of Darfur and the butchery presided over there by Beijing's allies in Khartoum has suddenly, magically -- like in a movie -- become an issue for the Chinese.

Spielberg undoubtedly has zero tolerance of genocidal behavior or people who espouse it. But is this wonderful director -- and long-time financier of Holocaust oral histories -- prepared to cut deals with politicians who gain from it? Possibly, but surely only if he were ignorant of China's history, society and behavior in developing countries.

In this, Spielberg would not be alone. Hein Verbruggen, the chairman of the coordination commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), recently told a Beijing audience that: "We have ... such an amount of requests from countries that don't ask for anything better than to be part of the [Olympic] torch relay that I have problems to imagine that a country does not want the torch relay.

"And that goes for Taiwan too. I have problems believing that there is a country that would willingly refuse that to their population," he said.

That's the point. Taiwan is not treated as a country by the IOC because China dictates this to be so. And Verbruggen seems so entranced by the mythology of the torch that he fails to understand why a Taiwanese government might block its entry or, indeed, that somewhere on Earth there are people who couldn't care less about the Olympics.

Almost surprisingly, the Democratic Progressive Party this week saw sense and rejected any route in which the torch proceeds directly between the two countries, including Hong Kong and Macau. This came in response to the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee, which disgraced itself by not standing up to Chinese propaganda when it supported a route from Taiwan to China via Hong Kong.

But this might not be enough. If -- when -- the Chinese use the Olympics to cast aspersions on Taiwan's self-determination and democracy, then the government must go to the next level.

Steven Spielberg applied his principles to influence the Chinese on their misconduct in Africa, and should be admired for doing so.

But if the IOC cannot likewise learn about what is happening in the Taiwan Strait and change its mercenary, patronizing tune with regard to Taiwan in the months to come, then it bodes ill. China will use the Olympics as a buttress for its autocracy, and Taiwan will be subjected to the same old propaganda, but at a level of hysteria and on a scope that only the Chinese can pull off.

Mischievous or stupendously ignorant: Verbruggen can only be one or the other. If it is the latter, then he has an excuse of sorts, but only for so long.

If we have to wait much longer for Verbruggen and his colleagues to get with the picture, then a Taiwanese boycott of the Beijing Games will be the only option.

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