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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."

Beijing Welcomes the World, sort of...

June 18, 2008

By Maura Moynihan
Phayul
June 16, 2008

As Beijing gears up for the world's premiere sports and entertainment
extravaganza, the Summer Olympic Games, lavish pageants are in the
works; musical banquets, Forbidden City package tours, corporate
sponsor trinkets and goodie bags for the 50 yard dash and the high
dive. Managing the games is a logistical feat of infinite complexity,
imparting strain and glory to the host city. The Sydney, Athens and
Turin Games were triumphs, there were no incidents of violence,
sabotage or aggressive nationalism, it was a relief to see the world
come together and somehow pull it off. It is unlikely that the
Beijing Summer Games will transpire quite so harmoniously, and it is
intriguing to ruminate upon how things might fall apart, as the Tibet
crisis festers and burns.

The Tibetan uprising that erupted in March tore the mask off the
police state, as China brazenly escalated its savage persecution of
the Tibetan people and a wave of global outrage drowned the Blood
Torch. The Beijing Olympic Committee has just revoked pledges to the
International Olympic Committee on press and travel freedoms for
guests of the Games. No more all-access pass for the tourist or the
reporter, it's all going under lockdown. It seems that the CCP party
bosses are on track to squander Olympic Glory, if that's the price
for keeping Tibet in bondage.

Tibetans within reach of the state are being punished for dousing the
Blood Torch with arrest, torture, murder, and getting cut out of the
Olympic joyride; hopeful Tibetan entrepreneurs are now facing a bleak
summer filled with PSB battalions instead of curious and sympathetic
travelers. The Public Security Bureau has ramped up surveillance and
harassment of non-Chinese nationals, and the Beijing Olympic
Committee has issued a new list of "rules" for their Olympic guests,
posted on the organizers' official website (www.beijing2008.cn). It
is standard CCP stuff, warning of "sexual subversion, spitting,
smoking, attacking referees, and waving "insulting banners", or "harm
China's national image or damage the social order". The rule book
contains a thinly veiled threat to Tibet sympathizers; "Not all of
China is currently open to foreigners, and if foreigners do not have
permission they should not go into areas not opened…Foreign
spectators will not necessarily automatically get visas just because
they have bought Olympic tickets."

So what does this bode for the summer games, as some 90,000 tourists
and 30,000 journalists descend upon Beijing? One of my most treasured
news clippings comes from the1987 New York Post, which tells of how a
British tourist in Gyantse was manhandled by Chinese soldiers who
mistook the image on her tee-shirt of the 1950's American television
comedian Phil Silvers for the Dalai Lama, and tried to strip the
woman of her clothing in a public square. Think of how the Blood
Torch goons squads assaulted anyone who unfurled a Tibetan flag.
Imagine the potential for disaster, in the fearsome dry heat of a
Beijing summer, hordes of strangers speaking a multitude of
languages, the PSP on high alert to gag any and all protestors, many
a tee shirt could be mistaken for God knows what, it's probably
somewhere in the manual, next to spitting and waving insulting banners.

It was a mere two decades ago, in the 1980's, that Tibet was at last
pried open by the press of modernization, roads, planes, and
tourists. It was then, as China lurched towards normalcy, that the
people of Tibet seized the moment to march in the streets of Lhasa.
PLA soldiers stormed the Barkhor with guns and tanks, tourists
whipped out cameras, captured the evidence, and flew back home to
bust the police state. The IOC insists that China has evolved in the
past two decades, pointing out all the gleaming new sports facilities
and fast food franchises in Beijing. Now the IOC must grapple with an
impending disaster. The Tibet crisis has triggered a xenophobic
dementia within the Politboro that threatens the logistical
capacities of the Games, and extends the PR nightmare of the torch
relay, when citizens, many of them sports fans, throughout the world
stood with the Tibetan people.

It is difficult to comprehend the scope of damage inflicted upon
Chinese society by the perverse tyranny of Mao; millions beaten and
starved to death in the Great Leap Forward, millions more imprisoned
and exiled during the Cultural Revolution. The Chinese Communist
Party is accustomed to bullying its citizens, as it callously razes
the homes of the poor to make way for super malls and punishes
Tibetan monks and Falun Gong practitioners in the manner of Spanish
Inquisitors. It's had a spectacular run of luck, merging corporate
capitalism with Mao's police state, but this summer it is set collide
with a stampede of Malboro Men, clutching Cokes and Big Macs, ready
to cheer on their compatriots in the Olympic Stadium. What will
happen if an athlete waves the Tibetan flag on the medal's stand, a
drunken tourist screams "Free Tibet", or an agitated PSB officer
mistakes Phil Silvers for the Dalai Lama?

It's going to be a long, hot summer.
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