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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."

Ex-Official Slams Olympics

August 12, 2008

August 11, 2008

A former top Communist Party official has slammed Beijing's hosting
of the Olympic Games as being built on the back of corruption and
human rights abuses. "In China, we produce miscarriages of justice
and trumped-up charges like a high-intensity industrial zone," writes
Bao Tong, who is under house arrest at his Beijing home.

Bao Tong, former top Communist Party aide to the ousted late Chinese
premier, Zhao Ziyang, has been under house arrest at his Beijing home
for nearly two decades after his boss's fall from power during the
1989 pro-democracy movement. Following are edited extracts from a
three-part series of his essays about the Olympic Games in Beijing,
broadcast on RFA's Mandarin service beginning Aug. 4:

It is very naive to take the number of gold medals won as an
indicator of the rise of China. That sort of patriotism...has nothing
to do with the Olympic spirit...There are subtle differences between
China and other countries when it comes to the training and selection
of athletes. Other countries use athletics as a way of training the
body. China uses athletics to snatch prizes.

China has sponsored a top-down professionalized system, a totally
segregated approach to athletic training. Non-Chinese may not
understand the term "away from production." It has its roots in the
Chinese Communist Party's experience of the 1927-37 Chinese civil
war, when peasants who relied on the land for their existence took up
arms as their revolutionary duty to fight for a share of it. In the
process, they were torn away from their families, from the rest of
society, and from normal economic activities. They were said to be
taken "away from production" to fulfill this task.

China's athletes are chosen as young children...and taken away from
their families, from their schools, and totally cut off from normal
social activities. The door is closed, and they give up their entire
youth and part of their childhoods for the sole aim of entering and
winning competitions, an aim for which they are totally re-molded by
the system.

Elitist training

China has the largest population of any country in the world, and
therefore an unending supply of human resources with which to win
glory and acclaim for country and Party. But it is a totally
different thing from encouraging ordinary Chinese people to get
fitter and healthier.

A gold medal is just a gold medal. It is not of the same order as the
well-being of the people, or the fate of the nation. The former
Soviet Union won countless gold medals. The gold medals are still
there today, but where is the Soviet Union?

China's array of medals and prizes was produced out of the sweat,
tears, and lives of generations of athletes and paralympians...You
can't use the achievements of our young people to cover up or to
dilute the mistakes of the country's leaders.

The Chinese Communist Party has used the Olympics as a way of
suppressing all other political duties. It has put all its energy
into this for the past decade, emptying out the last drop of
strength. All political, economic, propaganda, and diplomatic effort
has been channeled into the Olympics. The entire Party and nation has
repeated the message about the importance of the Games time and
again, an importance which is greater than that of the fight against
corruption, disaster relief efforts, human rights, or the livelihood
and welfare of ordinary Chinese.

Ordinary citizens pay the price

It is hard to see how the efforts of ordinary people will be repaid.
Aside from the more obvious contributions of effort and money from
those who have it, there are all those people who have had their land
grabbed away from them, or whose homes have been forcibly demolished,
or who have been forced to give up Those who have
been forced to return to their hometown as part of the pre-Olympics
"clean-up," or those who have been detained against their will. Those
who have been forbidden to speak, forbidden to conduct interviews,
forbidden to offer legal services, or forbidden from helping people
stand up for their civil rights or property.

There is a fly in the ointment, and that lies in the fact that the
Chinese government has refused to keep the promises it made to
improve human rights and to allow greater press freedom when it
applied to host the Games in the first place.

In the eight years since China applied to host the Games, with the
continued suppression of human rights and continuing controls on the
freedom of the press, those promises have turned into nothing but
empty words. And an empty promise is very hard to keep.

Chinese people who have had their rights infringed know it. A lot of
the international media know it. Communist Party and government
officials know it too, in their heart of hearts. Who would have the
gall to propose or second this motion, to talk the empty talk about
"the best Olympic Games ever"?

Manufacturing injustice

The best at suppressing the news? Maybe. The best at trampling on
people's rights? Perhaps. Even though the curtain has yet to rise on
the Olympics, we can say with 100 percent certainty that we have lost
all hope of being "the best."

There is one extremely good thing about a one-party system, and that
is that it can achieve pretty much anything it wants to. That's why
Deng Xiaoping said that China should never go the way of the West,
because it was terribly troublesome, and that any attempt to get
anything done petered out in argument. That's quite right. Who would
have dared to argue with Deng or Mao? That's why Mao announced in
1976 that Deng was an enemy of the people, and why Deng announced in
1989 that Zhao Ziyang was the enemy.

History repeats itself, and the wheel comes full circle. Leaders at
every level have to deal with dissenting opinion, and at every level
they have the power to brand the other a public enemy. In China, we
produce miscarriages of justice and trumped-up charges like a
high-intensity industrial zone, rolling them off the conveyor belt at
a rate no-one else can match.

We are so efficient at it: Why stop now? It is a task beloved of
Chinese officials at every level of leadership. One thing they are
particularly good at, for example, is allowing people they like to
get rich first. All you need to get a bank loan in the blink of an
eye is the favor of a local ranking official. In the blink of another
eye, you can acquire a whole state enterprise for the token price of
between three and five percent of its market value, which you can
then transfer into your own private ownership.

One-party system

In the same blink of the eye, you can get access to a plot of land
"approved" for your use, expel a large crowd of people who live on it
and farm it, and begin a lucrative career as a property developer.
Will anyone make a fuss? Well, that's easy to deal with. In the blink
of an eye, anyone making a fuss will have lost their livelihood and
received a warning from the authorities. Who will have the courage to
publish such a negative news story? That would be revealing state and
Party secrets, calling all sorts of trouble down on the heads of the
journalist and even the whole newspaper.

In the case of a lawsuit being filed, the lawyer will either be
warned off, obstructed at every turn, or have his license to practice
taken away, or be convicted himself of a criminal offense. In the
case of any mass unrest, the last resort is to send the security
forces in to stamp out trouble. There is one of these "mass
petitioning incidents" in China every five minutes, 80,000 a year,
and they are all the inevitable by-product of a one-party system.

Under today's one-party system, we have a highly efficient system for
an exponential increase in the gap between rich and poor, for
corruption, state-sponsored robbery, oppression, and for the control
of information. All these things fit together seamlessly. This is the
human rights record and the state of press freedom against which it
will be very hard to gain any improvements. This is the big, bad secret.

The efficiency of the one-party system can be applied in any number
of ways. For example, to stop anything from happening that Party
leaders do not like. China has been a People's Republic for 59 years
now, but we haven't seen any progress in the direction of democracy
in any of those years. The only reason China sent a delegate to the
United Nations to sign the covenants on human rights back in October
1998 was because of the forthcoming application to host the 2008 Olympics.

Voting with their feet

As soon as the bid was successful, the thing was shoved into the
shadows. The National People's Congress was never asked to ratify it.
Putting on a show is indeed very efficient. Actually doing something
is very inefficient. Thanks to China's one-party system, they really
have been able to make a momentary difference to the air quality in
Beijing. But as soon as the Games are over, who knows how many
lifetimes ordinary Chinese residents will have to wait to get decent
air to breathe again.

There is one clear barometer of how good a political system is. It's
no good listening to what people say; mouths are very unreliable. You
have to look at what the feet are doing. A good system will attract
people. People in China may be living quite happily, and foreigners
may make light of traveling a thousand miles to visit. But would they
want to emigrate here? When they have seen the Olympics, seen the
show, and had a chance to understand Chinese people a bit better, and
to compare China to their own country, then what? I am certain that
while they will say a lot of nice things about China, they are not
going to start flooding in to live here. Whereas Chinese people would
be leaving in their tens of thousands if the opportunity was there.
That is my prediction. History will be the judge of whether I am right or not.

Original essay in Mandarin by Bao Tong. RFA Mandarin service
director: Jennifer Chou. Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by
Sarah Jackson-Han.

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