Sunday, August 26, 2007

Standing Up for Human Rights - USA by Joe Pitts, August 24, 2007

Just before Congress left Washington for the August recess, I joined with several other Representatives as an original cosponsor of House Resolution 610, introduced by Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

H.Res. 610 calls for a boycott of the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, in August 2008, unless the Chinese regime stops engaging in serious human rights abuses against its citizens and stops supporting serious human rights abuses by the regimes in Sudan, Burma, and North Korea against their citizens.

The Government of the People’s Republic of China regularly denies the right to freedom of conscience, expression, religion, and association to its own citizens.

The Chinese Government holds thousands of political prisoners without charge or trial, including democracy activists, lawyers, human rights defenders, religious leaders, journalists, trade unionists, Tibetan Buddhists, unregistered church members, Falun Gong practitioners, and political dissidents.

The Chinese Government continues to support and therefore enable serious human rights abuses by the regimes of Sudan, Burma, and North Korea against their citizens.

China reportedly purchases as much as 70 percent of Sudan’s oil, and currently has at least $3 billion invested in the Sudanese energy sector, for a total of $10 billion since the 1990s. The Chinese have provided funds for a presidential palace in Sudan at a reported cost of approximately $20 million. In addition, the Chinese Government has reportedly cancelled approximately $100 million in debt owed by the Sudanese Government. All this, as genocide is carried out against Sudanese citizens in Darfur.

China has sold Burma’s military regime over $2 billion worth of arms and military equipment since 1989, which have been used to commit grave human rights violations and mass atrocities against Burma’s ethnic minority civilians. The people of Burma continue to suffer as the brutal military dictatorship engages in ethnic cleansing against the minority populations, uses rape as a weapon of terror and uses ethnic peoples as human landmine sweepers. Up to one million Burmese citizens have been internally displaced by their own government and 3,000 villages have been destroyed as part of the regime’s campaign against ethnic minorities.

The Chinese Government has been the largest proponent of the brutal North Korean Government led by Kim Jong Ill. They continually block action against North Korean human rights abuses at the United Nations. Thousands of North Koreans, fleeing the brutality of their government, have been detained by the Chinese authorities and forcibly returned across the border where they face arbitrary detention, torture, and even summary execution.

I have great respect for the American athletes who are scheduled to compete in China next summer. These athletes have trained for years for the opportunity to compete in the Olympic Games. In a perfect world, the Olympics would be simply a competition of the greatest athletic talent in the world and talk of boycotts would never interrupt our athletes from displaying their skills on the greatest world stage.

Unfortunately, in a world in which 1.3 billion people live under a repressive totalitarian regime, the Olympic Games are more than just an athletic competition. In a world where genocide is tolerated in the name of oil contracts and state imposed famine is sustained by propping up brutal dictators, the Olympics go well beyond athletic competition. The 2008 Games are a public relations display for the Chinese Government.

The modern Olympic movement was started as a way to bring the world together in peace and unity in the name of athletic competition. However, there is nothing peaceful about the imprisonment and torture of political dissidents. There is nothing peaceful about support for brutal dictatorships.

We cannot stand by and allow the grave atrocities that Chinese officials carry out against their fellow citizens to be glossed over by the splendor and pageantry of the Olympics. Holding a successful Olympic Games is very important to the Chinese Government. They want to use the opportunity to show their greatness as a nation. This desire for prestige presents a real opportunity to put pressure on the Chinese Government to make changes before the Games take place.

Just as it was inappropriate in 1936 to hold the Olympics in Nazi Germany, so to it would be inappropriate to give China the world platform that comes with hosting the Olympics if they do not take steps to correct their human rights violations.

The prospect of a boycott is regrettable, but not nearly as regrettable as the millions of people that have fallen victim to the horrific abuses of the Chinese Government and the brutal regimes they enable.

Congressman Joe Pitts, a Republican, represents Pennsylvania's 16th Congressional District, which includes Lancaster County and parts of Chester County and Berks County.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

No comments: