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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Olympic Countdown

July 21, 2008

The Washington Post - Editorial

With three weeks remaining until the opening of the Olympic Games,
China's Communist leadership is relentlessly pursuing a strategy doomed
to failure. Through censorship, visa restrictions, intimidation and
brute repression, China's leadership is trying to prevent any public
expression by Chinese citizens or foreign visitors that conflicts with
the image it wishes to project to the world - that of a "harmonious"
society. In pursuit of this goal, China is blatantly violating the
promises it made when it was awarded the Games, including that it would
allow unrestricted media coverage. And it is setting itself up for a
political and public relations disaster when - as seems inevitable - a
dissident message evades its censors and security thugs.

To fulfill its pledge to the International Olympic Committee, the
government of Hu Jintao lifted some restrictions on foreign journalists
in January last year. Last week, under pressure from the IOC, it agreed
to allow live satellite uplinks from Beijing. But as the Games approach,
intimidation of both the international and domestic media has
intensified. Many visas for journalists seeking to travel to China
before the Games have been withheld; correspondents based in China have
been warned that negative coverage may cause their news organizations to
lose accreditation for the Olympics. According to Human Rights Watch, 10
foreign correspondents, including representatives of the Associated
Press, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal, have received death
threats because of their reporting on the recent violence in Tibet.
Travel to Tibet remains severely restricted.

Chinese who question the official Olympic narrative have been treated
far more harshly. Two prominent critics, Hu Jia and Yang Chunlin, were
sentenced to prison this year after they tried to link the Beijing
Olympics with China's human rights record. Dozens of other writers and
dissidents have been jailed, placed under de facto house arrest or
ordered to leave Beijing before Aug. 8, when the Games begin. When Reps.
Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Christopher Smith, R-N.J., traveled there this
month with a list of 734 political prisoners, civil rights lawyers with
whom they tried to meet were detained or prevented from leaving their homes.

Beijing has heavily pressured the IOC and many Western governments to
prevent athletes from criticizing China or its foreign policies during
the Games. But the regime itself has not sworn off political statements.
When the Olympic torch passed through the Tibetan capital of Lhasa last
month, the local Communist Party leader delivered a speech excoriating
the Dalai Lama and proclaiming that "China's red flag ... will forever
flutter" above Tibet.

Too many foreign leaders, including President Bush, have chosen to
tolerate this behavior without protest. Bush has confirmed that he will
join Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Cuba's Raul Castro in attending the
Opening Ceremonies because he wishes "to cheer on our athletes" and
because to do otherwise "would be an affront to the Chinese people." In
fact, Bush is affronting those Chinese who have bravely tried to resist
the regime's steamrolling of all dissent. And what if an intrepid
protester manages to raise his or her voice for Tibet or religious
freedom or an end to China's sponsorship of genocide in Darfur and is
swarmed by the regime's thugs? What if Western media seeking to cover
such an event are censored? We can only hope that in that event, Bush
will stop cheering.
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