Saturday, August 09, 2008

Games are no fun when deluded West cheers heirs of Mao

by Gerald Warner:

Scotland on Sunday: WELCOME to the Berlin Olympics Mark II. Anyone possessed of historical awareness must have recognised the acute sense of déjà vu attending Friday's Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing. The massed performers, the visually impressive tableaux executed by well-drilled automata, the glorification of nation, state and leadership – this was Berlin 1936 revisited.

Whence comes the compulsion to appease totalitarian regimes on sporting occasions? Do we imagine the atmosphere of good fellowship will soften the sinews of genocide, instead of according false credibility and reinforcing the arrogance of dictators?

What happened in the nine years following the Berlin Olympiad? So, what exactly are we doing in Beijing, apart from topping up our endless reserves of self-deception?

The double standard has never been more flagrant. No one would hold games in Zimbabwe – even if it were not an economic basket case. Apartheid South Africa, in its day, would have been a complete non-starter: 69 people died at Sharpeville. The Chinese Communist Party has butchered 65 million. Stalin was right: "The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic."

The reality behind Britain's supine appeasement is that our trade and investment in China amount to billions of pounds. Nobody wants to scrutinise this teeming market too closely as regards human rights: avert your gaze and praise the fireworks. Some seek to anaesthetise conscience by claiming the regime is now benevolent. That was the line peddled by Wang Wei, secretary general of the Beijing Olympic Games Bid Committee when he lobbied the gullible West: "We are confident that the Games coming to China not only promotes our economy but also enhances all social conditions, including education, health and human rights."

That was in 2001, the same year when a Western woman visiting Hunan province was shocked to find the still-warm body of a newly born baby girl lying naked in a gutter, ignored by passers-by. Female children are not wanted in China: between 500,000 and 750,000 of them are aborted every year in what the proposer of a US Congressional resolution last month termed "gendercide".

The cute little girl who sang a hymn to her country at Friday's Olympic opening ceremony was lucky to be alive. The demented one-child policy has resulted in a demographic ticking time-bomb of 60 million more males than females in the younger generations, as well as the most disproportionately ageing population in the world. Presumably that problem will be solved, in time, by forced euthanasia.

Human rights in this one-party state are a cynical slogan, never a reality. Religion, too, is fiercely persecuted. The advent of the Olympics actually increased state harassment of Christians, the renewed persecution being described as "the worst in years" by the Open Doors group. The regime was anxious that Christians should not make contact with visitors, while an attempt was made to prohibit athletes from bringing any religious objects into the country. The police state is unrelenting in its vigilance, preparing dossiers on almost 30,000 foreign media reporters and journalists attending the Olympics.

The regime has tried to assume a mask of relaxed jollity but, like a wife-beating domestic tyrant entertaining visitors, the reality shows through. Dictating to spectators that they must not stand up in their seats, or wave unapproved banners or flags, betrays the oppressive mindset of these heavy-handed hosts. It was such petty supervision that made the dribbling, sycophantic raptures of the BBC commentators ("Was there ever such an opening?...") ring especially hollow.

In the longer term, the regime may be sitting on a volcano. Last year thousands of rioters against the one-child policy burned public buildings in Guangxi. Riots provoked by a multiplicity of grievances are now commonplace. The Ministry of Public Security reported 87,000 "mass incidents" in 2005, a 6.6% increase on 2004 and 50% more than in 2003. Serious riots, such as the disturbances involving 20,000 people in Hunan last year, are proliferating.

Over the next few years some 300 million peasants will have to migrate from rural areas to the cities. If the economy falters, all the regime's mechanisms of oppression will be futile. It is fashionable to proclaim that, measured on a purchasing power parity basis, China's economy is the second largest in the world after the United States. Yet in per capita terms it ranks as lower middle-income. Here be dragons. The totalitarian vulgarity of the Olympic opening ceremony may be the last hurrah for the heirs of Mao.
OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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