The government of China has a history in this area of announcing policies and laws which sound fine in principle to the international community but are then not enforced. This announcement will mean nothing if the practice of organ harvesting from non-consenting 'donors' for huge sums of money continues.
The Chinese Deputy Health Minister Huang Jiefu, speaking in Guangzhou in mid-November 2006, denounced the selling of organs of executed prisoners, saying, "Under-the-table business must be banned." Yet the practice had already been banned in law on July I, 2006 and by policy long before that, so his speech was an official acknowledgement that the previous bans were ineffective. We worry that this announcement of a change in the law is nothing more than a political cosmetic, a piece of propaganda with its eye fixed firmly on cleansing the party's terrible human rights reputation before the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the minds of prospective foreign visitors.
Mann (James Mann, author of The China Fantasy) thinks the media hype surrounding the 2008 Olympic Games will dwarf all earlier ones. China's government has already adapted a cute-and-cuddly image for them with its 'Five Friendlies'—doll-like characters, including a panda, designed to appeal to children, marketers and tourists. He asks pointedly if the "world's car manufacturers and beer companies (will) want to sponsor television coverage of the Olympics that dwells on the unpleasant side of China-the sweatshops, the poverty, the political prisoners, the corruption and the environmental disasters? Not likely." He queries if the Beijing games will follow the terrible precedent of the Berlin Olympics of 1936.
The Chinese media will stress patriotism at home throughout 2008 and probably before. Their coverage of the October, 1999 fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Peoples' Republic of China, which featured a parade intended to demonstrate the military power and the achievements of the CCP, is a likely template. John Pomfret of the Washington Post wrote chillingly about that day in Beijing: "No random spectators were allowed to view the scores of gaily coloured floats that coursed for two hours down to the Boulevard of Eternal Peace.
No overweight children were among the goose-stepping young students, women participants were picked for their beauty; soldiers were carefully selected for height, polish and marching skill. And all were chosen on the basis of their 'love of the motherland', Chinese officials said." The presence of a huge international media corps in Beijing could help to spur political demonstrations by democracy activists, religious groups, including Falun Gong, Tibetans, Uighurs, aggrieved workers and farmers, but only if they can penetrate the security designed to keep them away from the television cameras.
Mann: "Would-be protesters will be kept out of Beijing (or if they live in the city, they may be thrown out of Beijing). Crowds will not be allowed to gather; if they do, they will dispersed before they can make it to any public space. The police will be especially rough on groups seeking access to Tiananmen Square, which has been off limits to protests since 1989." The real test will come after the foreigners have left Beijing, says Dunn.
How many of the changes in China's political system hinted at on the eve of the Games will be implemented? Will the democratic world-now all but about 45 dictatorships across the planet-successfully integrate China to our norms? Or will the business community in Canada and elsewhere have to continue to explain why they are kowtowing to a regime that rather recently ordered tanks to fire on unarmed citizens and which since 2000 has been killing Falun Gong prisoners of conscience without trial and selling their organs for cash to organ tourists? Is this corporate social responsibility to some CEOs?
Mann stresses that the real problem with the business community is "Who's integrating whom?" How many Canadians have lost their livelihoods as a result of this integration, including, for example, 800 Goodyear Tire employees near Montreal who saw their tire plant close a few months ago because someone thinks they can manufacture tires more cheaply in China?
Among the initiatives that each of us might take to pressure the government of China on a host of human rights issues over the next year or so are these five:
4 -Leave no stone unturned on these vital causes. Be tireless. Speak, write, listen and strategize.
5-If it becomes necessary to call for a boycott together or separately of the 2008 Olympic Games, let us all be fully understanding of all the training and sustained effort put into their sport by Olympians everywhere. The International Olympics Committee should, given that human rights have deteriorated across China since it was awarded the Games, never have given the games to Beijing. If the IOC will not push harder on the host government to improve human rights in China than it has done to date, the IOC will be partly responsible for the calls for boycott. We did not know about the Holocaust before the Berlin Olympics in 1936, but the international community does know what the government of China is doing now both internally and internationally. Human dignity is ultimately indivisible today just as it was in the 1930s.