Time to boycott the China Olympics

11 Apr

When the Olympics were held in Berlin in 1936, there were calls to boycott the games because Germany was already under Hitler’s Nazi government. It did not materialise. That was also an eventful year as the Olympic torch was introduced. As BBC reporter Bowlby wrote,

… it was planned with immense care by the Nazi leadership to project the image of the Third Reich as a modern, economically dynamic state with growing international influence.

Therefore, it is with great irony that the torch bearers in this Olympic, were protected by “flame attendants” from Beijing who were paramilitary police, described by one of the top London Olympics official as “thugs”. An AP report revealed that these flame attendants were being rough on some of the torch bearers. Yolaine De La Bigne, a French environmental journalist and a torchbearer in Paris complained that her headband with a Tibetan flag was forcefully removed by these “Chinese agents”.

It appears that the Chinese authorities were determined to ensure that the torch was not just successfully relayed but also to remove any protestors or forms of protests that might portray the country in a negative light.

Unfortunately, the International Olympic Council and the participating countries have all bend over backwards to please the trading giant. This is despite the Chinese authorities refusal to improve its human rights record.

Let us recap the recent human rights violations committed by the Chinese authorities.

1. Suppression of pro-independence demonstrations in Tibet. According to an update from Amnesty International, ‘The Olympics countdown – crackdown on Tibetan protesters’, between the period of 10 to 25 March, overseas Tibetan organizations estimated that 79 to 140 have died during the crackdown across Tibet and its neighbouring areas. 1,200 to over 2000, were believed to be detained with at least 100 being disappeared. The arbitrary detention of the protestors violated their freedom to peaceful assembly.

2. The detention, imprisonment, harassement and torture of human rights activist – The sentencing of prominent human rights activist, Hu Jia to three and a half years of prison imprisonment for state subversive activities was widely reported. The man was imprisoned for merely writing 5 articles and two interviews which were critical of the government. Land rights activist, Yang Chunlin, was also reported to be tortured and sentenced to five years in prison for ‘inciting subversion’. His crime was to spearhead the petition campaign, “We don’t want the Olympics; we want human rights.” Gao Zhisheng and rights activist lawyer was sentenced to three years for a similar charge in December 2006. Teng Biao, human rights lawyer who co-wrote ‘The real China and the Olympics’ with Hu Jia claimed he was kidnapped and released two days later. He was subsequently warned not to talk to foreign journalists. These are just some of the more prominent cases documented by Amnesty International.

3. The supply of arms to military regimes such as Sudan and Burma. Amnesty International reported that China continued to supply Fantan jets, carrying air-to-ground missiles until 2006. In addition, according to Save Darfur, the Chinese government has played a prominent role in supporting the Sudan government which enabled the facilitation of atrocities in Darfur. As Sudan’s leading trade partner, it has been its major supplier of small arms which have been regularly used in Darfur. Moreover, ‘much of Sudan’s indigenous arms production capacity has been developed with Chinese technical assistance.’ Amnesty International also reported that China is the ‘principal source of arms supplies to the Myanmar security forces’ in its ‘Myanmar needs a comprehensive international arms embargo’ report when the Saffron revolution occurred in Burma last year. These weapons have been used to suppress and commit human rights violations in both countries.

Given that the Chinese authorities have not only refused to brush up its human rights records in China, but also continued to be implicit in supporting illiberal regimes in both Sudan and Burma, it is not unreasonable to propose drastic measures.

On hindsight, the world should have boycotted the Olympics in Berlin in 1936 because Hitler was a dictator who was guilty of genocide. The torch relay should have been discontinued for it was a tradition of glorifying the achievements of host countries, despite their human rights abuses. Given China’s record of human rights violations, a boycott is not entirely out of the question.

– References-

1. 1. Chris Bowlby, ‘The Olympic torch’s shadowy past’, BBC News, 5 April 2008.

2. Anita Chang, ‘Top Chinese cops protect Olympic flame’, Associated Press, 8 April 2008.

3. ‘People’s Republic of China: The Olympics countdown – crackdown on Tibetan protesters’, Index Number: ASA 17/070/2008, Amnesty International, 31 March 2008 (pdf).

4. Michael Bristow, ‘Anguish over China activist sentence’, BBC News, 3 April 2008.

5. ‘People’s Republic of China: The Olympics countdown – crackdown on activists threatens Olympics legacy’, Amnesty International, Index Number: ASA 17/050/2008, 31 March 2008, (pdf format).

6. New photos expose Sudan arms violations, Amnesty International, 4 September 2007.

7. ‘Less than Meets the Eye: Beijing’s Recent Statements and Actions on Darfur’, Save Darfur Coalition, 19 March 2008, (pdf format).

8. ‘Myanmar: Myanmar needs a comprehensive international arms embargo’, Amnesty International, Index Number: ASA 16/014/2007, 27 September 2007, (pdf format).


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