Thursday, August 14, 2008

How Olympics have made life worse, not better, for Chinese

Belfast Telegraph:

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Did the spectacular opening ceremony of the Olympics blind the West to the human rights abuses in China?

Did the spectacular opening ceremony of the Olympics blind the West to the human rights abuses in China?

‘The greatest show the world had ever seen ... Confucius himself might have been pleased’ — The Independent.

‘Not for decades has an Olympic Games been opened in such a colourful and overpowering fashion’ — Die Welt.

‘Eye-poppers gave way to jaw-droppers, stunners were followed by dazzlers’ — NBC.

The most common reaction to the Olympic opening ceremony has been awe. But the hype and the hoopla can’t hide the fact that the single most awesome aspect of the occasion has been the scale of the deception, and the extent to which the Western media have colluded in presentation of a pageant of propaganda.

Over the seven years since China ‘won’ the 2008 Games, the International Olympic Committee has encouraged a belief that human rights in the country would improve as quid pro quo for selection to stage the Games.

In fact, no undertaking along such lines was given, or required. It may be that the IOC muttered something to the effect that there might be a problem with regard to human rights, and the politburo replied that would all be sorted out.

It’s been sorted out in the sense that dissidents have been thrown into jails and the poor hunted out of sight lest visitors be brought face-to-face with the reality of life for the mass of the people.

Far from the Games ushering in more tolerant attitudes on the part of State officialdom, they have brought about a zero-tolerance approach to anyone or anything which might challenge the fraudulent picture of China which the free-market Stalinists of the Hu Jintao regime want the Games to transmit to the world.

The Games have made things worse, not better, for the Chinese people. The point came across with abundant clarity in a documentary on Al Jaazera last Sunday night — tougher-minded and more insightful than anything I’ve seen on British or Irish television — dealing mainly with the problems of petitioners. The practice of petitioning dates back centuries.

Peasants would come to the Old City to beg the Emperor to intervene against oppressive landlords or corrupt tax-gatherers. (What a telling commentary on the nature of the Chinese ‘revolution’ that the same supplicant procedure persists to this day.) More than a million people pour into the capital every year with petitions to present to top party officials. Recently, most petitions have sought compensation for homes demolished on the order of local apparatchiks who then defraud the evicted families of compensation before selling the property off for development. Instances have soared under cover of Olympics-related construction projects. Until this year, hundreds of thousands of petitioners stayed each year in a run-down area of Beijing while waiting their turn at party offices. Some months ago, the entire area was razed to the ground by bulldozers. When Mugabe dealt similarly with a troublesome slum area of Harare two years ago, loud protests in Britain were led by the Prime Minister. This time, not a whimper.

Ms Han was shown rummaging in a refuse tip for bits of plastic or tin to sell to buy food for her children. Two years ago she led a middle-class life. Her husband had a good job in the State-owned Bank of China. Then he went to Beijing with a petition complaining of corruption at the bank. Twenty ‘security officers’ and the local party secretary waylaid him at Beijing railway station. He was beaten until he looked like he’d been run over by a tank, then handcuffed and hauled off to a prison run by a private company, where he remains. Ms Han and her seven-year-old daughter were held in the same prison for three months.

“All the police bureaux have instructions to prevent petitioners reaching Beijing,” said Nicolas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch. “All the local party units at street level in Beijing have orders to prevent petitioners demonstrating. This is a comprehensive attempt to airbrush away any sign of discontent.”

Rights which were regarded as inviolable under ancient dynastic rule have been swept aside to ensure that the Olympics proceed with serenity. The Chinese artist, Al Wei Wei, whose unconventional vision inspired the Bird’s Nest design of the main arena, said: “All the promises have been empty, completely empty.”

A woman on the run for trying to petition, living in hiding with her children, said: “The party secretary told me, ‘Even if you report this matter, it will be as useless as farting. We are in control of this matter’.

“The Chinese Communist Party are purely fake communists. Before, the bandits lived deep in the mountains. Now they are the security police.” The Olympic Games have not brought about change for the better, nor was there any serious intent that they should. They have provided a spectacle to dazzle the eyes of the world while the individual capitalists of the West and the State capitalists of the East advance their relationship to the detriment of the Chinese people.

Still, protests continue every day. There were more strikes in China last year than anywhere else in the world. Ordinary people of whom we have never heard lead struggle we never learn about. Human rights advocates risk all. The Games will soon be over. But the real test of endurance is still to come.

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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