Beijing 2008: A Triumph for Human Rights Abusers Everywhere (Part 3)

In my last two articles, I have been examining China’s Human Rights record. In the first, I discussed China’s human rights abuses leading up to July 14, 2001, when the Olympic Committee agreed to have Beijing be the sight for the 2008 Summer Olympics. In the second, I detailed the negative impact that this decision is having upon the already stringent human rights of the Chinese populace.

Steven Spielberg withdrew from his position as an artistic adviser at the Beijing Olympics citing China’s record on Darfur. His decision received both praise and criticism.

In reaction to the resignation, Milan Zever, sports minister of Slovenia, the current presiding country of the European Union stated,

“Sports is too important. It is too important to use it as a political instrument.”

Really now? More important than a genocide?

President Bush portrayed Spielberg’s resignation as a personal choice rather than a selfless gesture:

“That’s up to him. I’m going to the Olympics. I view the Olympics as a sporting event […] On the other hand, I have a little different platform than Steven Spielberg, so I get to talk to President Hu Jintao […] I do remind him that he can do more to relieve the suffering in Darfur.”

As great as it is for Bush to be able to remind us little people (though Spielberg is definitely not little) that he has foreign policy under control, evidence suggests that China could do much more to stop the genocide.

China actually has a very large impact within foreign policy. Its economic support of human rights violators deeply undermines the effectiveness of policies calling for the reversal of these violators’ positions.

China is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the most powerful body within the UN. The UNSC has considerable “soft power”—meaning that while it cannot threaten such “hard power” actions such as a declaration of war, it can influence world opinion by condemning certain actions and follow up such condemnation with economic sanctions.

Each UNSC member may use its veto power to strike down such measures. China has used this power to protect its’ trade interests with such countries as Sudan and Myanmar, blocking attempts to place pressure on these governments.

Sudan sells nearly two-thirds of its oil to Beijing who in turn sells weapons to Sudan.

Further pressure has been put on China through Team Darfur, a group of Olympic athletes dedicated to raising awareness on the issue. Team Darfur was begun by American speed skater Joey Cheek.

He stated,

“I would love to have several hundred more athletes in Team Darfur by Beijing and I see no reason why we can’t recruit a few hundred more […] So much of the Olympic charter is about brotherhood and achieving something greater through sport; it’s pretty lofty language. It seems hypocritical for people within the Olympic movement to say ‘We believe in human rights’ and then take no action.”

While the Olympic venues are already safeguarded from political demonstration by the rules of International Olympic committee, Britain, for one, feels that this is not enough.

The government has added an addendum to the contract of the British Olympians prohibiting them from making any politically sensitive remarks or gestures during the Games.

So am I saying you should boycott watching the Games? Not really. It might impress your friends, but seriously unless you want to hurt CBS and NBC it really won’t matter.

The best lesson we can all glean from this experience is to be more actively aware. Beijing was slated to host the 2008 games in 2001 yet it is only within the past six months that its’ human rights record has been hitting the news.

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