|Mar 07, 2008|
Dutch writer and comedian Erik van Muiswinkel, who recently released the song "Nie na Chine" urging athletes not to attend the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, has started a one-man campaign to boycott the Games because the Chinese regime has not kept its promise to improve human rights.
Mr. Muiswinkel has attracted support from many celebrities and former Olympic medalists; his campaign is gaining steam as it spreads across Europe and reaches out to the rest of the world.
Mr. Muiswinkel has written an open letter to all prospective Olympic athletes, asking them to consider his reasons for suggesting a boycott, and urging all Olympians to choose not to support a regime the treats its citizens as badly, and flouts international law and standards of decency, as does the Chinese regime.
Following is the text of the letter:
Dear Olympic athletes,
This summer, on the 8th of August, the whole world will watch the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing—an event for which you have trained for years and which you hope to be the crown on your career as an athlete.
Yet it will not have missed your attention, that these Olympics are different. Different because they take place in China, the last big totalitarian state in the world.
More than a hundred years ago, the Olympic Games were newly brought to life so that athletes from all five continents could compete together, without discrimination in political conviction, race or belief. This simple yet beautiful ideal was recorded in the Olympic Charter, a document that states the goal of the Olympic Games: the harmonious development of people in a peaceful society, taking the human dignity into account
A goal which is, unfortunately, hard to find in contemporary China. Because the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has turned China into a country, wherein too often there is no regard for human dignity. The human dignities that are enumerated in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights (signed by the People's Republic of China) are: freedom of speech, protection against torture, right to a fair trial, freedom of belief, right to uncensored information; all these dignities are obviously in violation with the political views of the CCP.
In China it is the Chinese Communist Party that decides which views you can express and which you cannot, which faith you can have, what the newspapers publish, which information you hear, which websites are alright and what you can say to foreigners. And beware, if you do not obey these rules….
For decades Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Chinese dissidents and many other organizations have reported about human rights violations in China; what is reported is only the tip of the iceberg. These groups report about torture, forced labour and torture in so-called re-education through labour-camps (Laojiao) or re-education through labour prisons (Laogai), about the brutal persecution of Falun Gong adherents, (Falun Gong is a spiritual movement forbidden by Jiang Zemin in 1999 because it became to popular.)
These rights groups report about the violent occupation of China's neighbor Tibet, between 1912 and 1949 recognized by the entire world as an independent country, and also about how the Chinese regime openly supports murderous regimes; in the past it was Cambodia, now it's Burma and Sudan. Moreover there are proofs of organ harvesting and the killing of little girls, about things that are hard to believe and remind you of a time about which it was said: "Never again…"
But it is happening again … and you are going to perform there, party there, win medals…
While you compete in stadiums in Beijing, you will know that in other parts of the country there are tens of thousands of Chinese people in prisons and labour camps, sometimes sentenced without a trial, sometimes after an unfair trial, because they stood up for what they believe in, for individual rights or because of their faith.
My request to you is therefore: Familiarize yourselves with the human rights situation in China and then seriously consider to not taking part in these Olympic Games.
The objections are the same everywhere: it is too late for your action; it is good for human rights to go to Beijing, precisely because of the Olympic Games reform is taking place; sports and politics must be kept separate; my decision has no influence whatsoever; it is an insult for the Chinese people; the Chinese culture is just like that, as Westerners we should not meddle with that.
These arguments are often heard and sound reasonable. But are they really correct?
- 1.You are too late with your request, after years of hard training I cannot let my focus be disturbed.
First of all there have been countless protests, starting in 2001, but those have effectively and quickly been swept from the table by China and the IOC with the promise of improvement.
Furthermore it has only been in the last weeks, after all qualification rounds, that it is known who can go to the Beijing, so only now can you decide what to do. And the years of training were not only for the Olympics but also for yourself, your development and for the countless other Championships in your branches of sport. The Olympic Games are very important, but not sacred.
- 2. The Olympic Games are actually good for human rights.
That is what the IOC hoped for as well, when the Olympic Games, after a secret ballot, were allotted to China in 2001.
In 2001 IOC-chairman Jacques Rogge said that his organization is convinced that the Olympic Games would bring about positive changes in China and that the human rights would improve. Also Liu Jingmin, the chairman of the Organization Comité Beijing 2008, stated that China certainly would pay attention to its own human rights situation
Seven years later, now seven months before the opening ceremony, it turns out that in all this time almost nothing has changed. On the contrary, according to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders there are many violations on the long list of atrocities which are directly related to the organization of the Olympic Games.
Thousands of people in Beijing were forcefully driven out of their homes in order to make space for Olympic stadiums and the Olympic Village. In an effort to "clean up" for the Games, Beijing has swept all the homeless beggars and other undesirable people from the streets and locked them up in labour camps without trial, so they cannot bother foreign visitors during the Games.
People who stand up for individual rights or the rights of others are being placed under house arrest so that they will not cause turmoil in August. Any form of demonstration is officially forbidden.
- 3. China is changing, owing to the Olympic Games.
The only positive change that the Olympic Games have brought about, is the alleged press freedom for foreign journalists. This measure does not hold for Chinese press and is only valid from the 1st of January till the 17th of October 2008, until one month after the Paralympics.
In the past year, however, many foreign journalists have noticed that Western press freedom is not the same as communist press freedom, and quite a lot of topics remain an official taboo. The media is still not allowed to report about violent incidents in the occupied territory, there can be no independent investigation what is happening and has happened exactly with Falun Gong practitioners inside the jails, and critics of the government who are placed under house arrest or locked up in labour camps, cannot be visited or interviewed.
- 4. Sports and politics must be kept separate.
Sports in China are direct government policies. On the 8th of August as soon as you enter the stadium during the opening ceremony and hold high your country's flag past the tribune full of dignitaries (where Prince Charles is missing, out of protest against the China's Tibet politics and Steven Spielberg because of Darfur politics!), you will become participants in the largest public relations display that the "modernized" Chinese Communist Party ever organized. And at that moment you are involved in politics, whether you like it or not.
- 5. But if I don't go, will my decision make any difference?
You do not just represent a country, you are representing a country that will usually be in the Top Five medal rank! If a German top athlete says: I will not go there since my consciousness doesn't allow me, it will be a big slap in the face of the CCP.
And the worst that can happen to the Party at this moment is losing face during the Olympics. Because this perfectly orchestrated propaganda fest has to show all Chinese in the world that China and its government are fantastic!
- 6. It's Chinese culture, as Westerners we should not get involved.
No, this is not Chinese culture. The true Chinese culture, based on principles of Confucius, Tao and Buddhism has nothing to do with the Chinese Communist Party. On the contrary, they often proved to be each other's enemies.
Many modern thinking Chinese, dissidents and human rights lawyers find this argument paternalistic and ask themselves why the same elementary human values do not hold for Chinese as they do in the rest of the world. In writing the Chinese government thinks the same, but in practice it hardly shows.
Take your time in the coming week, for instance half an hour every day to view and read the following websites. View and compare. The Olympic philosophy stands for a way of life, wherein enjoying sports, respecting universal, fundamental, ethical principles and being an example for others are the highest good. Be such an example and don't go, do not party along at the Olympic Games in Beijing.
I wish you strength and wisdom!
Erik van Muiswinkel
The Olympic Charter
Amnesty International (The Olympics Countdown Reports)
Human Rights Watch
Reporters without Border
Coalition to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong
Film of labor camps in Beijing