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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?"

Dutch lawmaker calls for boycott of Olympic opening ceremony

February 26, 2008

THE HAGUE, Netherlands, 26 Feb (AP): A Dutch lawmaker is calling for
an international boycott of the opening ceremony of the Beijing
Olympics to protest China's human rights record.

Joel Voordewind, a member of the Christian Union that is a junior
member of the ruling Dutch coalition government, said Tuesday he wants
governments around the world to support the boycott and lean on
sponsors to use their financial clout with Beijing on the human rights
issue.

"It is possible to take part in the games but skip the party before
hand," he said. "Such a ceremony is only intended to glorify the host,
China."

Voordewind also suggested setting up a venue in Beijing during the
games where visitors can discuss human rights.

He expected opposition from organizers, but said, "If the Chinese are
against the plan, that means they are against human rights."

Voordewind has only just begun enlisting world support. Neither the
Dutch government nor the Olympic Committee have backed him.

Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said the government regularly brings
up human rights issues at meetings with Chinese officials and has no
plans to support a boycott of the games or the opening ceremony.

Despite the negative reactions at home, Voordewind still hopes for a
mass movement before the Olympics open next August.

"The Americans waited a long time until they boycotted the (Moscow)
games," he said of the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympics to protest
Russia's invasion of Afghanistan.

Critics say China has for years mistreated Tibetans, jailed dissidents
and journalists on questionable charges and should be doing more to
push the government in Sudan - where China is a major buyer of oil -
into bringing an end to violence in Darfur. More than 200,000 people
have died in the Sudanese province in a conflict between rebels and
militias backed by government forces.

Last week, Hollywood director Steven Spielberg quit as an artistic
adviser to Beijing, saying China was not doing enough to press
Khartoum to end the conflict in Darfur.

"I hold much respect for Spielberg's decision and if an athlete
doesn't want to go, I'll respect that, too. But the games will be a
success, without a doubt," IOC president Jacques Rogge said in an
interview published Tuesday in Spanish sports daily Marca. "The games
are stronger than any one person."

Nobel laureates and former Olympic gold medalists added their voices
on China's role in the humanitarian crisis by issuing an open letter.

Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, has said he will skip
the Olympics, a move being linked to his support of Tibet's spiritual
leader the Dalai Lama, who has been living in exile since an uprising
against Chinese rule in 1959.
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