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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."

China twisting Harper's message

April 11, 2008

State-controlled media have either ignored PM's advice on human rights
or reported his opposition to a boycott

The Globe and Mail
GEOFFREY YORK
April 10, 2008

BEIJING -- If Stephen Harper thought he was sending a message to China
by refusing to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, his

message is failing to impress the Chinese so far.

China's official media are ignoring or twisting his words, even to the
point of making him appear to support their party line on the Olympics.
And in

the livelier corners of the Chinese Internet, enraged Chinese patriots
are denouncing the Canadian Prime Minister as an arrogant "clown."

Mr. Harper announced last week that he would not attend the opening
ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in August. He did not give any specific

reason for the decision, and he said it was not a boycott, but at the
same time he urged China to listen to world concerns about its treatment of

Tibetans. Most analysts said he was sending a clear message to China.

But the message has been muddled and manipulated by the Chinese
authorities. Most of the state-controlled media have ignored Mr.
Harper's words,

or reported only his opposition to a boycott. His advice to China on
human rights has been ignored by almost all of the Chinese media.
Print Edition - Section Front

The state-owned news agency, Xinhua, even published an article that
included Mr. Harper in a long list of world leaders who had "voiced their

objection" to a boycott of the opening ceremony. The agency failed to
mention that Mr. Harper had just announced he would not attend.

The news agency gave an equally misleading report about Canadian Foreign
Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier, saying that he had talked to his Chinese

counterpart this week and they agreed that Tibet was "an inalienable
part of China."

The report also said that Canada supported China's hosting of the
Olympics and would send an "official team" to the opening ceremony. But
it failed

to mention that Mr. Bernier had also expressed his concern about the
situation in Tibet. And it failed to mention that Mr. Harper would not
attend

the opening ceremony.

Most of the Chinese media and Internet users are hostile to Mr. Harper's
attempt to urge China to respect human rights in Tibet. Global Times, a

newspaper owned by the People's Daily, wrote this week that Mr. Harper
showed "ignorance and even contempt" toward the views of Chinese

Canadians. The newspaper reported that Chinese Canadians were
"dissatisfied" with his comments on human rights and "would use their
legal voting

rights to fight back against this ignorance and contempt."

On a nationalist website in Beijing called anti-CNN.com, Chinese
commentators blasted Mr. Harper for his announcement that he would not
attend

the opening ceremony. "He's just a clown," one person wrote. Another
described him as a "poor and ignorant prime minister."

On the Strong Country forum of the People's Daily website, the posters
were equally vitriolic about Mr. Harper. Some called him "arrogant" and

"shameless." One person said Mr. Harper was the head of a "hooligan
government" that had provided a haven for Chinese criminals.

Chris Rudge, chief executive officer of the Canadian Olympic Committee,
said he had heard "very little" reaction from China to Mr. Harper's

announcement.

Mr. Rudge, who is attending Olympic meetings in Beijing this week, said
there was a "Canadian tradition" of not sending its top leader to the
Olympic

games. Canadian prime ministers did not attend the last two Olympics in
Athens and Turin, he noted. "This is certainly no different. I wouldn't
read

any kind of statement into it."

However, until the latest Chinese crackdown on Tibetan protesters, Mr.
Harper was seriously considering a trip to Beijing for the Olympics,
according

to well-placed Canadian sources. One source had estimated there was a 50
per cent chance that he would attend the Beijing Olympics.

But that was before the Tibet crisis.
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