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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

It's time to boycott Olympics

March 25, 2008

The Montreal Gazette
Monday, March 24, 2008

For shame. Under cover of darkness, China is once again inflicting
untold horrors on Tibet while the rest of the world looks on, wringing
its hands and doing little or nothing else to stop the killing.

China calls it a life-and-death battle. Right: China's life. Tibet's
death. An unnecessary tragedy when there is an obvious instrument to
force China to clean up its act in Tibet: a boycott of the Beijing
Olympics scheduled for this August.

Obviously, the IOC made a terrible, tragic mistake when it awarded the
2008 Olympics to Beijing in the first place, overlooking strong bids
from Toronto and Istanbul: arguably the worst mistake since the 1936
Olympics went to Hitler's Germany. Toronto the Good would have staged a
good, dull, eminently forgettable Olympiad, but an Olympic Games in
Canada would not have been saddled with the enormous problems that
threaten to pull down the Beijing Olympics, from ghastly pollution to
the brutal repression in Tibet.

I was in Moscow when the vote to award the 2008 Olympics to Beijing was
taken in 2001. The Chinese were doing their best to put on a smiling,
friendly face. But when I saw Juan Antonio Samaranch and Henry Kissinger
strolling away arm in arm after the vote, it set off alarm bells: those
two are not exactly famous for their respect for human rights. The
behaviour of 30 members of the Chinese delegation who bulled their way
to the front of the customs line on the way out of Moscow confirmed my
impression that Beijing had no business hosting an Olympics.

What was ugly in 2001 is uglier now. China in Tibet is the real China:
bullying, menacing, threatening. Trying to demonize the Dalai Lama,
making this man of peace out to be a terrorist in order to justify the
mass slaughter that is going on in Tibet.

Chinese authorities are so afraid of the scrutiny of the world that they
now want to ban live broadcasts of the 2008 Olympics altogether.

This is a government that knows it has something very large to hide and
does not want the pitiless eye of the world's television cameras trained
on the bloody manner in which those who hold power in China maintain
their position.

So far, the nearest thing to a genuine reaction to the terror unleashed
on Tibet is a threat that heads of state might boycott the Opening
Ceremonies in Beijing. As weak and inadequate as that is, U.S. President
George W. Bush has refused to go even that far, perhaps aware that his
own record of sanctioning the drowning-like torture known as
water-boarding leaves him in no moral position to condemn the Chinese.
The shadow of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, inevitably, lies over Tibet.

Once upon a time, the nations of the so-called "free world" staunchly
resisted Communist China. The Chinese government of Mao Tse-Tung was
demonized much as the U.S. would later demonize the leadership of Iraq,
Iran and North Korea. Not without reason: Mao was a monster, especially
murderous to his own people.

But now that a brutal communist dictatorship has morphed into a brutal
capitalist dictatorship, the world has opened its arms to China or more
specifically, to the clout of China's increasingly dominant economy. The
EU, the U.S., Canada, Brazil, all increasingly dependent on trade with
China to keep their economies afloat, are afraid to confront the Chinese
for fear of harming economies which, in the case of the U.S. at least,
are already on shaky ground.

The argument has been that maintaining relations with China through
politics and trade makes it possible to use back channels to persuade
the Chinese to respect human rights and the rights of other nations. If
you want to know how well that has worked, just look at

Tibet now, where the most recent news is that Chinese troops are
relentlessly hunting down those who took part in the protests against
Chinese rule. It chills the soul to think of what is happening to those
who are caught.

In the Beijing Olympics, the world has a big stick to force the Chinese
leadership to abandon its Dark Ages approach to Tibet and to its own
people: A massive, worldwide boycott, led by the EU and North America,
perhaps by the athletes themselves if IOC president Jacques Rogge lacks
the courage to lead the way.

This time, if the boycott is big enough, it will work. One of the
arguments against a boycott is that the boycott of the 1980 Moscow
Olympics (and the retaliatory boycott of the Los Angeles Olympics in
1984) were ineffective as politic tools. That was true then, but that
was a different world and Beijing promises to be a very different Olympiad.

With China replacing the U.S. as the world's economic and military
superpower, the Chinese want to keep their trade lines open to the EU,
to their oil pipelines in Iran, to Venezuela and Africa and all the
parts of the globe where they are taking advantage of the disarray and
incompetence of the Bush administration to supplant the U.S. on the ground.

I know what the cost of a boycott would be to our athletes. I know what
this event means to the real amateur athletes out there: It is
everything. They train for a decade, for two decades, simply for this
one fortnight of competition. To lose it is to lose everything: but how
do you weigh an Olympic medal against the deaths of Tibetans who are
being killed simply because they want to see Tibet freed of the Chinese
yoke? Even Olympic gold weighs nothing compared with the slaughter of

It is a terrible thing for these athletes to give up their Olympic
dream, or at least to defer it until London in 2012, but to lose your
conscience is worse. Canada, with its athletes in the forefront of the
movement, should be leading the boycott of the Beijing Olympics. One of
the few areas where Stephen Harper has been a useful prime minister in
the past has been in standing up to China. It's time to do so again,
economic ties be damned.

Someone has to lead the way. At a meeting of the EU sports ministers in
Brdo Pri Kranju, Slovenia early last week, the ministers were firmly
united against a boycott. Patrick Hickey, head of the European Olympic
Committees, stood with them. "Under no circumstance will we support the
boycott," Hickey said. "We are 100 per cent unanimous."

Shame on Mr. Hickey, shame on the EU, which might find that opposition
to a boycott will melt away overnight when faced with the weight of
public opinion. Much of the EU stood up against tyranny five years ago
by refusing to be part of the American invasion of Iraq; now its time
the EU showed the same kind of courage toward China.

It's time to send a message to the Chinese: Stop the killing in Tibet or
face a boycott of the Olympic Games.
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