Thursday, 3 April 2008

Why Are Countries Still Going to the Beijing Olympics?

Last month I expressed surprise that there seemed to be no efforts by countries to boycott the Olympics being held in Beijing, China, this year. This is despite China being a dictatorship, occupying Tibet and having an appalling human rights record. Since then we have seen violent repression of protests in Tibet and neighbouring provinces in China and the ongoing arrest and sentencing of human rights campaigners, Hu Jia was sentenced yesterday and Yang Chunlin a fortnight ago for apparently 'subversive' activities, in fact simply communicating human rights abuses to the Chinese people and abroad. The Chinese regime is going out of its way to back regimes which many countries have condemned for their dictatorial rule and violence towards their people, notably the governments of Sudan and Zimbabwe.

The behaviour by Chinese authorities is beginning to contaminate other countries due to the carrying of the Olympic flame through other countries. When the flame set off from Greece protests in Greece against the Chinese regime there were suppressed by assaults on protestors. So far the only reaction from the international community is that Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, has said she will not attend the opening ceremony; Nicolas Sakorzy, President of France is considering a boycott. No-one is yet barring their athletes from going as was the case with the Moscow Olympics of 1980 and certainly no-one in the UK from the government or sporting bodies seems to be expressing any disapproval of what is currently going on in China or how inappropriate it is that the Olympics with all their ideals are being held (and attended by competitors) there.

There is a clear signal that China can continue to behave how it wishes because it is so economically important to all Western countries in a way the USSR never was. It also says that sportspeople should be oblivious to the torture, wrongful imprisonment and murder of their fellow humans and just concentrate on sport which is supposed to be about peaceful competition. All governments should boycott China not only in terms of the Olympics, that should be a given, but also economically and politically, to begin to force it to live up to civilised behaviour. If that is not done, it simply reinforces the view that you are free to have a free economy and all the rewards of capitalism, but there is no obligation to behave decently to your people. China's arrogance is astounding, even Hitler toned down his repression when Germany hosted the 1936 Olympics. China knows how powerful it is, and is waving that power in our faces, showing everyone, us included, that we are powerless to oppose its barbaric behaviour. This is a crunch point in international relations for the next decades and the UK government like so many others shows no willingness to stand up for the values it says it supports. By implication, Western support for democracy and free speech is actually a lie and they are happy that such things are being opposed in China because in such a context (i.e. that one fourth of the world's population lives under such a system) it will make it easier for them to erode democracy and free speech here. This is already happening in the UK and the unwillingness to oppose even more extreme curtailment of human rights in China, shows the British government's true face and true aspirations for their rule over us.

For the sake of democracy and free speech, all must boycott the Beijing Olympics immediately.

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