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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."

China's totalitarian games

August 25, 2008

By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Columnist
The Boston Globe
August 24, 2008

CHINA, THE world's largest dictatorship, ruthlessly represses freedom
at home while abetting the vilest tyrannies abroad. Letting such a
regime host the Olympic Games, many people warned, would prove a
mockery of the Olympic charter, which is dedicated to the goal of
"promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of
human dignity."

But Beijing and its supporters insisted that the Olympics would make
China better. The Games would "foster democracy, improve human
rights, and integrate China with the rest of the world," promised
Beijing's vice mayor. "By allowing Beijing to host the Games, you
will help in the development of human rights."

The International Olympic Committee repeatedly seconded that motion.
"We are convinced," IOC president Jacques Rogge assured one
interviewer, "that the Olympic Games will improve human rights in
China." He told another: "We believe that the Olympic Games will have
definitely a positive, lasting effect on Chinese society."

Well, the Games have certainly had a lasting effect on one part of
Chinese society - the 1.5 million men, women, and children expelled
from their homes in Beijing to make room for the construction of
Olympic facilities and urban beautification projects. To clear them
out, the Geneva-based Center on Housing Rights and Evictions found,
Chinese authorities resorted to "harassment, repression,
imprisonment, and even violence." Demolitions and evictions
frequently occurred without due process. Many dispossessed residents
were not compensated; those who were usually received a fraction of
the amount needed to make them whole.

In America, you can fight an eminent-domain taking all the way to the
Supreme Court. In China, you suck it up and keep your mouth shut.
Otherwise you end up like Wu Dianyuan and Wang Xiuying, two former
neighbors who were unhappy with the compensation they received when
their homes were demolished. Rather than suffer in silence, they
sought permission to demonstrate during the Olympics in one of
Beijing's three official "protest zones." Permission was denied.
Instead they were charged with disturbing the public order and could
face a year of "re-education through labor." Wang, who is nearly
blind and walks with a cane, is 77. Her friend is 79.

The two elderly women weren't the only Chinese citizens locked up for
seeking permission to protest peacefully. "Gao Chuancai, a farmer
from northeast China who was hoping to publicize government
corruption, was forcibly escorted back to his hometown . . . and
remains in custody," The New York Times reported. "Two rights
advocates from southern China have not been heard from since they
were seized last week at the Public Security Bureau's protest
application office in Beijing."

All told, at least 77 people filed applications to demonstrate during
the Games. None was approved.

A million and a half residents expelled. Free speech strangled.
Elderly women jailed. That's what it means when a police state like
China hosts the Olympics. That's what you get when the IOC and its
corporate supersponsors care more about television ratings and market
share than about the values of the Olympic movement. That's what
happens when the free world cons itself into believing that China's
Communist rulers, who sustain genocide in Sudan and torture nuns in
Tibet, will refrain from doing whatever it takes to turn the Olympics
into a vehicle for totalitarian self-glorification.

The cruelty and deceit were on display right from the start, from the
digitally faked fireworks to the last-minute yanking of a 7-year-old
singer because a Politburo member decided she wasn't pretty enough.
To produce the synchronized pageantry of the opening extravaganza,
thousands of performers were forced to endure horrendous conditions.
The ceremony's 2,200 martial artists, for example, drilled 16 hours a
day, seven days a week, for months, and were forbidden to leave the
army barracks where they were quartered. Prolonged exposure to the
relentless summer sun "resulted in heatstroke for some students," AP
reported; one grueling, rain-drenched rehearsal lasted 51 hours,
"with little food and rest and no shelter from the night's downpour."

When thugs host the Olympics, thuggish behavior can be expected.
According to Reporters Without Borders, 22 foreign journalists were
attacked or arrested during the Games. At least 50 human-rights
activists were arrested, harassed, or forced to leave Beijing. As in
1936 and 1980, the 2008 Games were a showcase for a dictatorship. In
such a travesty, Americans should have played no part.

Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
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