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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?"

Steven Spielberg shuns Olympics in China

February 14, 2008

By Richard Spencer in Beijing
The Daily Telegraphy, London
13/02/2008

Steven Spielberg, the Hollywood film director, announced he was pulling out of his involvement with this year's Beijing Olympics in protest at China's role in atrocities in Darfur.


In the most embarrassing public relations set-back yet to the Chinese government's hosting of the Games, Spielberg, who was due to be an adviser for the opening and closing ceremonies in August, said he could no longer live with his conscience over his position.
    
China has been a notable ally of the Sudanese government, buying its oil and selling it arms, and has threatened to veto United Nations security council resolutions imposing sanctions on the African country for massacres in Darfur, in the south of the country.

"I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue with business as usual," Spielberg said in a statement.

"At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies but doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur.

"Sudan's government bears the bulk of the responsibility for these ongoing crimes but the international community, and particularly China, should be doing more to end the continuing human suffering.

"I have decided to formally announce the end of my involvement as one of the overseas artistic advisors to the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games."

China's support for the Sudanese government first became clear when it threatened to use its permanent seat at the Security Council to veto a sanctions resolution in 2004, as the numbers of dead at the hands of government-backed janjaweed militia in Darfur became clear.

But it took a high-profile campaign by the actress Mia Farrow to turn the spotlight on the Olympics.
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Last spring, she wrote an article dubbing the Beijing Olympics "the Genocide Games", and called on Spielberg to reconsider his position. In interviews she drew attention to the moral tone of many of his films, such as his holocaust drama Schindler's List.

Spielberg also directed Munich, the film based on the terrorist killings of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Games.

Not long after, Spielberg released an open letter to Hu Jintao setting out his concerns about the Darfur situation.

He said Chinese officials had been in contact to argue that Beijing was attempting to bring about improvements in the situation, but that it was not enough.

"China's economic, military and diplomatic ties to the government of Sudan continue to provide it with the opportunity and obligation to press for change," he said.

"The situation has never been more precarious - and while China's representatives have conveyed to me that they are working to end the terrible tragedy in Darfur, the grim realities of the suffering continue unabated."

His statement was released on a day of protest about the situation in Darfur, which included marches on China's embassy in London. Among those who took part or signed a letter of support were Olympic athletes, including the British badminton player Richard Vaughan, Nobel Peace prize winners including Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, politicians including Lord Owen, the former foreign secretary, and celebrities such as Emma Thompson.

Farrow also signed the letter, and she said she welcomed Spielberg's decision. "I'm delighted by his decision and it's a desperate time for Darfur so this is a shred of good news in a very bleak week," she told the BBC.

There was no immediate response from the Chinese government or the Beijing Olympic Committee, though both have rejected in the past what they call attempts to "politicise" the Games.

Despite their claims that they will not be swayed by protests of this sort, since the first anti-China protests began over Darfur, it has appointed a special envoy to oversee relations and has increased pressure on the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, to accept an international peace-keeping force.

The British government has also praised the Chinese role as "constructive".

Darfur is just one issue on which the Chinese government is fighting to defend its reputation as the Olympics approaches. It is also under fire over its imprisonment of dissidents, lawyers and journalists, controls over the internet, and persecution of unapproved religious groups.

Last month, The Daily Telegraph revealed the Prince of Wales, a long-time supporter of the exiled Dalai Lama, had told the Free Tibet Campaign he would not accept an invitation to the Games.
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