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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."

Should China Even Be Hosting The Olympics?

August 6, 2008

A Recap of 'The Economist's Article
by Long John Silver (Columnist)
Bleacher Report, CA
August 3, 2008

This is a recap of the very provocative article on 'The Economist'
this past week: China's Dash for Freedom.

It was very interesting because the article cuts through the facade
and presents an interesting viewpoint; how China's political and
sustainability strategies recently have an underlying theme, quite
contrasting to that of the Olympics. It makes one wonder to a certain
extent that it is indeed ironic, that China is the host of Olympics this year.

To provide a flavor about the background of the Olympics, the
official motto of the event is the quite inspiring 'Citius, Altius
Fortius".  It means, 'Faster, Higher and Stronger' in Latin.  The
five interlocking Olympic rings (blue, black, red, yellow and green)
represent the global communion of all the five continents in one
place. The spirit of the event was originally suggested by De
Coubertin, 'The most important thing is not to win but take part'.
The most famous musical theme of the Olympics is Burglar's dream,
originally composed by Leo Arnaud.

At the fundamental level, Olympics can be interpreted as using sport
as a conduit, for the celebration of diversity and freedom of human
spirit. Hence, human rights and providing a sustainable world for our
posterity (i.e. sustainability) are two objectives at the fore front
of the event. It is indeed very ironic, that China is the Olympics
host this year, when some of its actions have not always been in
conjunction with the theme of the event.

My intention is not to hold China culpable or criticize, for every
country that has ever hosted the Olympics throughout history has had
its golden and dark moments. My intention is to derive from 'The
Economist' article -- and merely present a case.

OBJECTIVE: The predominant objective for China is to showcase to the
world through this event that they are indeed ready to join the list
of Developed countries. 'One World, One Dream' is their theme for
this global event. But delving deeper -- there is also a darker side
to every story.

Human Rights: China's stance of 'Human Rights' have been at best --
flexible. The Government is still very 'Authoritarian', and more
often that not intrudes very much into the human rights issues.
Amnesty International has archived cases where citizens have been
incarcerated time and again, when expressing a viewpoint opposite to
that of the ruling power.

The Chinese Government has played the fear card quite strategically;
it has denied entry to many Tibetans citing the reason of terrorist
threats. The real rationale of course is the fact that it intends to
avoid any protests from the Dalai Lama's supporters from Tibet, when
the entire globe's attention is on the country.

The underlying theme of the Chinese Government is still
'Non-Interference'. China still voted against United Nation's
sanction against Zimbabwe and it also opposed the international
criminal court's actions against the Sudan's policy of genocide. It
has never been very keen on persuading North Korea to move towards
disarming nuclear warheads either. Quite clearly, it supports
non-interference of external justice organizations into a country's
political power, even in cases when such interference is necessary.

Such issues bring to the table, an interesting question? Is China
justified to host the Olympics when its actions might violate one of
the most important themes of the very event?

Freedom of Information: The Chinese Government has been meticulously
cautious in allowing freedom of information to its citizens, and even
worse, the media has not been independent from the Government. The
media have always been kept on a tight leash. Freedom of media is one
of the most important aspects of democratic Governance.

The Chinese public indeed feels the government intrusion every day
when they access the internet. Until very recently Wikipedia had been
proscribed by the ruling power; so were sections of Google and
Playboy. The filters delete information posted by the citizens
regarding certain events inside China, thus acting as a barricade for
free flow of information across the country.

The ingenious Chinese youth have found their way around the filters
by a simple manipulation (using vertical Chinese scripts instead of
horizontal ones, open it in PDF and rotate the page to read it). In
the event of Olympics, the Government allowed access to Wikipedia,
and for some unexplained reason, Playboy, to its citizens (no one is
complaining though).

Environmental Sustainability:   China is the second biggest
contributor to climate change (CO2 emissions) behind the United
States, and forecasted to top the list in the impending future. About
75% of China's electricity is derived from coal, and low quality one
that that. All of the environmental measures that China has
implemented can be best described what we term -- stop-gaps
(addressing the symptoms and not the actual root of the problem).

Recently, the Government asked many coal power plants in Beijing to
reduce the operational hours drastically, and halved the number of
cars traveling on the roads of Beijing. The intention is to alleviate
any genuine fears of air pollution problems by reducing the amounts
of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur di-oxides and
hydrocarbons released into the air.

For the worst, if Roger Federer or Lebron James collapses in the
middle of 3-3, 30-30 in the third set, or at 102-100 USA leading in
the fourth quarter …every air pollution control official in Beijing
might as well pack up at the office, to leave for good. They all will
be held culpable for Federer's collapse -- (Rafa Nadal would run a
close second in the culpability game though ...)

The crux of these stop gap measures lies in the fact that each of
them are just short term measures. Things will be back to equilibrium
once the Olympics is completed. It becomes a moral responsibility of
ours, to provide living conditions to posterity; as good as ours at
the very least, if not better.

Conclusion: It is in fact undeniably true that the Chinese people are
more satisfied now, than they have ever been.  More so due to the
economic boom, than due the absence of information freedom and an
authoritarian Government. It is indeed ironic that under the presence
of a competitive market, the society improves as a whole; and that is
quite not understood by the ruling party.

Maybe they do understand it and do not want to acknowledge it because
of the fact that their personal interests might be contrary to that
of a results offered by a competitive market.

Olympics was used a perfect conduit for the emergence of democracy in
Seoul 1988, and Mexico twenty years ago. No better place to have your
voice heard when the entire globe is watching. I have a feeling, that
the Chinese Government is doing their very best to prevent the same
from happening.

Little does it stop us from speculating and wondering: With human
rights, freedom of information and sustainability under question
should China even be hosting the Olympics?

Your guess is as good as mine ...
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