Saturday, March 15, 2008

World condemns China as Olympic doubts grow

Agence France-Presse/CBNNews

Click on NYT to see the video (at the end) showing that according to Tibetan advocates, ordinary Tibetans began rioting after military police officers attacked monks trying to protest outside a monastery in the center of the city.

PARIS - Taiwan led sweeping condemnation Saturday of China's brutal crackdown on protestors in Tibet and accused Beijing of trying to gloss over its rights record with Olympic sheen.

About 30 people have been killed during unrest in Lhasa, according to the Tibetan government-in-exile in India, although China's state-run Xinhua news agency earlier put the figure at 10, citing government officials.

The arm-flexing has caused newspapers around the world to start talking about a possible boycott of the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing.

"This incident fully reflects the Chinese government's characteristics: dictatorship and bullying. Such a government won't tolerate the Tibetan people in their pursuit of speech of freedom," pro-independence President Chen Shui-bian told a crowd in southern Chiayi city.

Taiwan's foreign ministry added in a statement that "China attempts to promote the illusion of its 'peaceful rise' by hosting the 2008 Beijing Olympics but in fact it targets Taiwan with missiles and suppresses Tibetan people's pursuit for freedom and democracy."

Beijing still regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification -- the two sides split in 1949 after a civil war -- and has repeatedly threatened to invade should it declare formal independence.

The Tibetan issue is already a source of tension between New Delhi and Beijing, with India playing host to Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama as well as his government-in-exile.

"We are distressed by reports of the unsettled situation and violence in Lhasa, and by the deaths of innocent people," India's foreign ministry said in a statement.

"We would hope that all those involved will work to improve the situation and remove the causes of such trouble in Tibet, which is an autonomous region of China, through dialogue and non-violent means," it added.

US Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama called on Beijing to account for the status of Buddhist monks detained.

He said this year's Olympics in Beijing were an opportunity for China to demonstrate its progress on human rights.

"But the events in Tibet these last few days unfortunately show a different face of China," said Obama.

Japan, which has been trying to repair relations with China, has taken a relatively low profile on Tibet, but a foreign ministry statement urged Beijing to show restraint.

Germany meanwhile backed the Tibetans' rights to religious and cultural autonomy, while "supporting the policy of a single China."

"A lasting solution to the Tibet question can perhaps only be found through a peaceful and direct dialogue," Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said in a statement.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said in his blog: "The fact that Tibet is a part of China does not relieve Chinese authorities of their duties (...) Quite the contrary. It is their utmost responsibility to ensure that Tibetan rights are fully respected."

The world's press joined in the condemnation.

"World leaders should also urge China to follow its constitution, which requires freedom of speech and religion, as well as self-rule for ethnic minorities," the Washington Post said in its editorial.

"It is, after all, the lack of these rights in practice that is pushing resentful Tibetans into extremism."

Memories of the Chinese authorities' crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen democracy movement in which hundreds, possibly thousands of people were killed, were strong in the British press.

"The crackdown on the democracy protests is on a smaller scale than that of the Beijing demonstrations of 1989, but the comparison with Tiananmen Square is inescapable," the Daily Telegraph said.

The newspaper also called on world leaders to "abandon their cowardice" about receiving the Dalai Lama, calling the Nobel Peace Laureate "Tibet's legitimate leader."

Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung said "the 'Olympic Games' brand is being tarnished."

"These summer games at Beijing have lost their innocence at Lhasa before even having started."

Spain's liberal daily El Mundo said the West had a unique opportunity to apply pressure with a boycott of the Olympics. "The West cannot keep looking the other way," it added.

Swiss daily Le Matin said the "only way to make the Chinese government understand (is) to boycott the Olympic Games."

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

1 comment:

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