Friday, April 04, 2008

Boycott the Games

Edward McMillan-Scott

Guardian:
April 4, 2008 2:00 PM - This weekend, the Olympic flame will be paraded through London but the lympic spirit died in the streets of Tibet. Beijing, by the definition of the Convention, is responsible for genocide in Tibet, in Darfur and because of religious repression, in China itself.

Amnesty International and most other NGOs agree that the human rights situation is getting worse in China because of the Olympics. Sport and politics do mix - in Article One of the Olympic Charter (pdf) which speaks
of "universal fundamental ethical principles".

Many politicians have still not come to terms with China, the terror state. Gordon Brown has said he will go to the games. I believe in private he must be dithering about his position. President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel
have not ruled out a boycott, and Nancy Pelosi has begged President Bush to stay at home. Many in the European parliament believe it is no longer whether there should be a boycott but what sort of boycott.

The protesters in Tibet are about to discover the penalty for opposing the Beijing regime. Elsewhere, the eco-campaigner Hu Jia has been convicted of subversion and jailed for three-and-a-half years. His only crime was to talk to foreigners - he contributed live from his Beijing flat to a couple of my press conferences, calling for a boycott of the Olympics. His friend Gao Zhisheng, the Christian human rights attorney who studied the brutal
crackdown of Falun Gong practitioners, has disappeared again from his house arrest. In an open letter to me in September he condemns Olympic corruption. Ai Weiwei, the designer of the Olympic stadium, is boycotting because of the "disgusting" political conditions in his own country. The sponsor of the web-based "We want human rights, not the Olympics" campaign in China itself, Jang Chunlin, has just been sent away for five years.

I have been campaigning in private for my reformist friends in China and in public for a debate about a boycott because of internal human rights since my last visit to China in May 2006. All those with whom I had contact -
reformers, dissidents, ex-prisoners of conscience - were arrested, imprisoned and in some cases tortured, even to this day.

As the founder of the EU's £100m democracy and human rights programme I was trying to gauge its capacity to work in the world's largest country, and its biggest tyranny. There is universal acknowledgment in the human rights
community that the situation in China is worse than it was in 2001, when China was awarded the games by a hopeful IOC - the most political decision since its 1964 boycott of South Africa because of apartheid.

The European parliament has unanimously adopted a resolution expressing "serious concern" about human rights in China and asking the IOC to make its own assessment of Beijing's compliance with its 2001 promises.

The techniques of repression in the name of the Chinese Communist party are so effective that, while PR company Hill and Knowlton is teaching 84 key Beijing spokesmen how to lie about them, China is selling the same
techniques to other tyrannies around the world, from Burma to Sudan to Zimbabwe.

Harry Wu, the noted dissident, now runs the US-based Laogai Research Foundation. He estimates that China's prison camps hold nearly seven million people under forced labour, detention without trial and torture. Manfred
Nowak, the UN's torture rapporteur, says it "remains widespread in China".

I have met many survivors of torture in China's camps. They tell of the progression from brainwashing and sleep deprivation to months of standing 20 hours a day motionless, then immersion in excrement, then beatings and
electronic goads to the genitals. The husband of Zhang Lianying told me she was beaten black and blue and had lost her sight and hearing as she was tortured to renounce her faith.

Although not religious myself, I sense that in China as in Soviet Europe, religion will play a part in change. This is the view also of attorney Gao Zhisheng. Those belonging to banned groups like Falun Gong are non-persons.
There is a list of 3,000 practitioners of this blameless Buddha-school spiritual movement who have died under torture since repression against their 70-100 million adherents began in 1999. Nowak and Zhisheng have told
me the majority of forced re-education victims are practitioners.

One young ex-prisoner - Cao Dong - told me at a secret meeting in Beijing that his buddy disappeared from their cell one evening (shared, incidentally, with several Tiananmen Square protesters). Next, he saw his friend's cadaver in the prison hospital with holes where body parts had been extracted. There have been 40,000 "extra" organ transplants in China since the persecution of Falun Gong began - the only prisoners to be routinely
blood-tested. It is likely that they are literally being killed to order.

Cao Dong was later convicted for meeting me, a "distinguished foreigner" and re-imprisoned. Last month Beijing officially told the EU the name of the prison where he is being held. I knew that already, as well as the names of
those torturing him today and their superiors. I was watching and now, thanks to the boycott campaign, the world is watching China too. I am not alone in drawing a connection between the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the
Beijing games.

As US supreme court judge Felix Frankfurter said in 1942 after hearing Jan Karski's testimony about the Nazi death camps: "I did not say that this young man was lying; I said that I could not believe what he was telling me.
There is a difference." It is time for the democratic world to stand up and be counted.



OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

2 comments:

nam said...

Very inspiring Blog. I am waiting for some of our athelest to do a boycott. Let not history say that not a single athlete boycotted games organized by a country known for Human Rights Violation. Shame on us if this should happen. Is this the legacy we want to leave behind?

MaKina said...

I certainly hope not. One should think twice before supporting the Genocide Games. Looking past the pocket book is what the big challenge is for a lot of VIPs. I agree that athletes have the power to turn things around.

Actually, it is the IOC that were given the job to make sure that the Olympic charter be respected--not the athletes. But because of politics -- they've ignored the charter completely. It is ironic isn't it?

Maybe the French athletes will save the day...and others will follow suit.