Thursday, December 06, 2007

It's all about the money again

by Claire Hoy

Orangeville Citizen, Canada: December 6, 2007 - Early last month, our so-called "national broadcaster" the CBC, was accused by critics of buckling under to pressure from the Chinese government in delaying the airing of a documentary on China's outrageous persecution of the religious sect the Falun Gong.

The CBC denied that any pressure from China was responsible for their decision to pull the documentary entitled Beyond the Red Wall after the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa objected to claims in the film that China arbitrarily imprisons and tortures Falun Gong members and uses them as slave labor.

Indeed, two prominent Canadian human rights activists, Winnipeg lawyer David Matas and former Alberta MP David Kilgrour, revealed absolute evidence last year that China executes Falun Gong members in order to harvest their body parts for transplants.

You can bet that if some right-wing dictatorship was accused of such crimes against humanity, a call from the local embassy would fall on deaf ears at the CBC.

But then, the CBC has committed hundreds of millions of dollars - much of it from your taxes - to broadcast next year's Bejing Olympics, making it susceptible, despite its' firm denials, to some heavy-handed Chinese blackmail. At the time of the controversy, the CBC - which had aired the documentary in French - claimed that the only reason it changed the scheduled (and heavily-advertised) viewing time is to make it "the most truthful and credible work possible."

One assumes - or should be able to assume - that before the CBC signed off on the project and paid producer Peter Rowe for his work, they would have first made sure it was "truthful" and - credible, making it difficult to accept the CBC's lame excuse for kow-towing to Chinese pressure.

But as distasteful as this incident was, surely there is a bigger issue at play here: given the indisputable fact that China is one of the world's worst human rights abusers, a)- why is the west catering to their Olympics at all; and b)-why not simply boycott the entire extravaganza?

This is, of course, an issue far beyond the competence of the CBC. Mind you, this writer has long found it simply wrong that the CBC uses taxpayer's money to outbid the private television networks in this country. Indeed, this writer finds it wrong that the CBC, rather than operate on its own strengths - and it has many - continues to live off the welfare of taxpayers at all.

On the bigger issue, however, while Prime Minister Stephen Harper is to be congratulated for holding a public meeting with the Dali Lama in Ottawa, much to the consternation of Chinese officials, why not go the extra step and pull all federal funding for Canadian athletes, officials and media for next year's Olympics.

It's not just Harper. We haven't heard a peep from NDP Leader Jack Layton or Liberal Leader Stephane Dion about the morality of handing the Olympics to one of the world's most disgraceful bully-countries. And we're not likely to hear anything any time soon, although again, you can rest assured that if the Olympics were being staged in the home country of right-wing tyrants, Layton and Dion would be falling over each other to express their total outrage.

The reason why we can not expect our leaders - or, for that matter, any western leaders - to officially boycott China's Olympics has nothing to do with human rights but, alas, everything to do with trade.

It was one thing to stand firm against South Africa's apartheid regime - and so we should have given how vile it was - because we did such little relative trade with them anyway. It's quite another thing to balk at such a huge trading partner as China.

Just to put things in perspective, Chinese imports as a percentage of Canada's total imports, while climbing dramatically in recent years, still represents less than 10 percent of our total imports. But in 2006, for example, Chinese imports to Canada were valued at almost $350 million, with total trade reaching close to $420 million and it continues to rise, jumping an additional $32 million between January and May this year compared to the same period last year. That's a lot of money to endanger for moral reasons, which is why it's not likely to happen.

The sheer size of the Chinese economy gives it a strength in world trade and other geo-political issues which no amount of human rights abuses on its' part can affect.

And the same people who constantly dump on the United States, a paragon of moral virtue compared to China, for its' transgressions, are, for the most part, the biggest cheerleaders in increasing sales and other cultural contacts with the Chinese. So what else is new, eh?


OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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