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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

This time, don't look the other way

March 28, 2008

Father Raymond J. De Souza,
National Post
Thursday, March 27, 2008

OPINION

Surely, there must be a certain incomprehension in Beijing these days.
After all, the Chinese regime has been breaking heads since 1949, and
the world has more or less gotten used to it. Why should it be different
this time?

The question for friends of Tibet, for friends of the Chinese people,
for friends of liberty, should be: Can it be different this time?

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is desperately trying to
ensure that nothing disrupts the Games. IOC president Jacques Rogge
assures everyone that he is engaged in "silent diplomacy" with the
Chinese on human rights questions. The IOC remains silent, and fervently
hopes everyone goes along diplomatically. Remember, in 1993, the IOC
came within two votes of awarding the 2000 Olympic Games to Beijing,
even as there were still bloodstains in Tiananmen Square. The IOC wants
a tranquil Games, happy sponsors who get what they paid for and for
everyone to break bread happily with the Chinese. For that, it is
necessary to ignore the breaking of heads throughout the land.

The world can rightly claim to be appalled by the Tibetan crackdown --
reports from Tibetan groups detail brutal torture and killings of monks
and nuns -- but no one can claim to be shocked. Is there a regime more
ghastly than that of the People's Republic of China?

Is any other government that so systematically suppresses all religious
liberty, erecting religious bureaucracies to which believers are
required to belong in order to worship? Is there any other regime that
still imprisons and kills bishops, priests and monks who fail to swear
loyalty to the state? Is there any other country where the entire
population is subject to child-bearing control, with forced
sterilization and abortions for those who decline to submit to state
rules on family size? Is there any other regime that executes thousands
of its citizens annually, the majority for the crime of challenging the
ruling party? Is there any other country accused (by credible sources)
of executing religious dissidents, harvesting their organs and selling
them? Is there any other regime more dependable in its support of the
worst kind of evil around the world (Darfur)?

Even the vile regimes in Saudi Arabia, Cuba, North Korea and Zimbabwe do
not compare to China across the breadth of its human rights violations.

The question is whether China's size and growing prosperity mean that
all this has to be ignored. The answer the world has given has generally
been yes. There is business to be done, and political leaders are there
to facilitate that, human rights be damned.

Canada's record is no cause for pride. Brian Mulroney, not a month after
retiring as an MP, was in China, lobbying for the Desmarais family
interests. During their terms in office, both Chretien and Martin were
China enthusiasts, favouring the sort of silent diplomacy that gets the
contracts signed.

Now, the Olympics offer a chance to do something different. The idea of
some kind of boycott is being discussed seriously. And for our part,
Canada has a federal government more committed to human rights in China
than ever before. The situation is therefore propitious for Canada to
take the lead. The Prime Minister, preferably in joint action with
opposition leaders, should announce that no federal political officials
will attend the Beijing Games.

China's strangulation of Tibet is only an extension of the suffocation
of liberty in China itself. Should the Olympics go off as planned, China
will rightly conclude that the world has made its peace with Beijing's
oppression, and is indifferent to whether the Olympic rings are used as
shackles. A modified boycott would expose that as a lie.

This time, it can be different.
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