Monday, May 14, 2007

Time to use the Olympics against Beijing’s excesses

This is a must-read by Sol Sanders ( who is an Asian specialist with more than 25 years in the region, and a former correspondent for Business Week, U.S. News & World Report and United Press International. He writes weekly for World and

World Tribune, May 14, 2007 - Excerpt: Indeed, security arrangements are being beefed up the area with Japan as a keystone. A steady drone of complaints comes out of the U.S. Treasury, the IMF, and from the EU about the economic issues. There is some reporting in the media of the more egregious human rights violations. But all this to little avail.

Yet there may be a new weapon in the equation. Beijing strategists, amateurish as they appear to be, may have an Achilles heel: the forthcoming Beijing Olympics.

Recent talk — coming for the most part from the earlier victims of Chinese aggression, the Tibetans, the Falung Gong sect, and the more vociferous professional human rights lobby, and unsuccessful French presidential candidate Francois Bayrou — of a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games has elicited, significantly, an instantaneous defensive response.

China’s principal propaganda organ, People’s Daily, said: “… the attempts of some people to boycott the Beijing Olympic Games as a protest against its policy on the Darfur issue are doomed to fail.

“People who harbor such attempts are ‘either ignorant or ill-natured’, Assistant Foreign Minister Zhai Jun told a briefing Wednesday afternoon, a day after he concluded a four-day visit to Sudan as special envoy of the Chinese government.

"These people's remarks run against the spirit of the Olympics and the universally accepted principle of non-politicalization of sport, and their attempts challenge the will of the people in the world," he said, adding he believes the Games will be a great success next year.”

But the epithet “Genocidal Games” is growing, and taking on media chic in Hollywood and elsewhere.

Although the Olympics are a marginal economic consideration for Beijing — even though they have led to a massive and often brutally bulldozing overhaul of the capital itself — they constitute an important political goal of the regime.

The Olympics have been seen as the crowning achievement of “a rising China”, removing all stigma of a regime which has yet to turn its back officially, apologize, or attempt to atone for the horrendous atrocities of its Maoist origins and the 1989 massacre of students and workers at Tien An Mien [which cynically using Japanese war crimes of World War II propaganda as a negotiating ploy].

Just as the XVIII Olympics in Tokyo in 1964, marked the end of the visible remnants of World War II and the American occupation and introduced a new era of Japanese life, the Beijing Olympics had been seen as such a milestone, both by the leadership and a hopeful public. Any effort to halt or discredit the games now, would be an enormous blow for the prestige and morale of the leaders of the Chinese kleptocracy.

Furthermore, there is a frightening precedent for Beijing: the U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow games after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan did not halt them. But they reduced their international significance and played a role in the unraveling and implosion of the Soviet regime.

Even a massive private campaign to boycott the games — without official U.S. government backing — but with widespread popular support could have a profound effect, perhaps forcing modification of some of Beijing’s policies. That’s clear to Beijing if not yet in the West. (more)

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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