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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China triumphs over attempt at Olympic boycott

July 6, 2008

Geoffrey York
The Globe and Mail (Canada)
July 4, 2008

BEIJING -- More than a month before any gold medals will be handed
out, China has already achieved one of its biggest Olympic triumphs:
a victory over the organizers of an attempted boycott.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the most likely potential leader of
the boycott, has now abandoned the idea and will attend the opening
ceremony of the Beijing Olympics next month, according to French
media reports Friday.

A day earlier, U.S. President George W. Bush announced that he, too,
would attend the opening ceremony on Aug. 8, despite strong pressure
from U.S. politicians and human-rights groups who wanted him to join
the boycott.

China's Communist rulers, who weathered a storm of pro-Tibet protests
in March and April, can now look with satisfaction at how their
political manoeuvring has deflated the boycott movement.

By giving minimal concessions to the Dalai Lama -- two rounds of
ineffectual talks where nothing was offered or agreed to ­ China
provided a face-saving solution for Mr. Sarkozy, allowing him to
claim that he gained something for Tibet with his tough rhetoric
about a possible boycott of the Games.

The boycott movement is now in tatters, with no major Western leaders
still on board. Only a few smaller countries -- Estonia, Poland,
Austria and the Czech Republic -- have announced that they will not
send any representatives to the opening ceremony in Beijing.

Several other leaders, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper and
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, are not planning to attend the
opening ceremony, but they have made it clear that that they are not
participating in a boycott.

The human-rights group that spearheaded the boycott campaign was
outraged by the Sarkozy and Bush decisions Friday, calling them "a
capitulation and a stab in the back for China's dissidents."

The Paris-based rights group, Reporters Without Borders, is trying to
organize an Olympic boycott to put pressure on China to release
jailed dissidents and keep its promise to improve human rights. The
group estimates that China is currently imprisoning about 100
journalists, cyber-dissidents, bloggers and internet users, despite
its promises to improve human rights after it was awarded the 2008 Olympics.

When the Tibetan protests began in March, the boycott movement seemed
to be gaining traction, with several Western leaders seeming
reluctant to attend the opening ceremony. But that momentum
dissipated after the Sichuan earthquake in May and the two rounds of
talks between representatives of China and the Dalai Lama.

"Sarkozy and Bush are now depriving themselves of a means of leverage
that might have led to the release of imprisoned journalists and
human-rights activists," Reporters Without Borders said in a statement Friday.

After the Tibetan protests erupted, Mr. Sarkozy said he might not
attend the Beijing Olympics unless China agreed to hold talks with
the Dalai Lama's representatives. Later, he said he wanted to see
progress in those talks before he could decide whether to attend the
opening ceremony.

On Friday, the French newspaper Le Monde quoted sources in the French
presidency who said Mr. Sarkozy would soon announce that he will
attend the Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing. It said the
announcement would be made by Mr. Sarkozy when he attends the G8
summit in Japan next week.

But despite Mr. Sarkozy's demands for positive results from the
talks, there were no signs of any progress in the latest round of
talks between Chinese officials and the Dalai Lama's representatives this week.

Lodi Gyari, a senior envoy of the exiled Tibetan leader, said the
latest talks were "one of the most difficult sessions" that the two
sides have ever had since their first talks in 2002. He said he does
not expect a breakthrough any time soon.

"I told my Chinese counterparts very candidly that if there is not
seriousness on their part, it is almost pointless for us to waste
each other's time," he told reporters at the New Delhi airport Friday
as he headed to Dharmsala, headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Chinese officials were equally pessimistic about the talks. They said
China would not agree to further talks with the Dalai Lama's envoys
unless he showed "positive behaviour" by refraining from any actions
that would support Tibetan independence, incite violence or "disturb"
the Olympics.

Even before the latest talks began, China launched a vicious verbal
attack on the Dalai Lama this week, denouncing him as a "flunky" and
"the main manipulator" of violence in Tibet. "Don't talk to the
double-dealing Dalai Lama!" shouted the headline of an article on the
English-language version of Xinhua, the state-owned news agency in China.

The article condemned him as "a traitor" who "wants to sell Tibetan
land to get support from foreign forces."
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