Monday, March 24, 2008
China, Tibet, Human Rights and the Olympics
The world is watching as China clamps down on Tibet. So much for autonomy. So much for openness to the press and so much for respecting human rights. I have no doubt that Tibetans chose this time to protest because this is the time that might galvanize world opinion. But maybe not.
George Bush has been tepid in his rebuke of the Chinese clampdown. European leaders talk about boycotting the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics but not of boycotting the Olympics themselves.
Should we be surprised? China did not use its considerable influence when the Burmese government violently suppressed protests by Buddhist monks. China has not used its considerable influence to pressure Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur. And what have we done, we have tolerated this behavior with minimal protest.
The Chinese complain that Pelosi is habitually bad tempered because of her call for the world to know what is happening in Tibet. My issue with Pelosi is not her bad temper. It is her professional politicking. I wish she had put as much energy into stopping the War in Iraq as she has in calling attention to the Chinese treatment of Tibetans. Still, at least she is standing up to brutality.
The Pope has called for a peaceful resolution to the problems in Tibet. The Dali Lama has called for the Olympics to go forth but for negotiating to begin to resolve problems in Tibet and to increase autonomy. The Pope is trying to normalize relationships with China, the Dali Lama is trying to protect his people.
We do not have such constraints. Burma, Sudan and now Tibet. Enough. There is no good reason to act as if this is business as usual. It is not. It is time to call for a boycott of the Summer Olympics.
I understand that the International Olympic Committee will cry out that this will only hurt the athletes. That is a self-serving and insensitive argument. The rights and the lives of people out weight the rights of athletes to compete. Alternative competitions can be created, alternative lives cannot. Enough.