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<-Back to WTN Archives One World, One Dream, One Big Human Rights Problem (Der Spiegel)
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Published by the Canada Tibet Committee

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

2. One World, One Dream, One Big Human Rights Problem (Der Spiegel)

SPIEGEL ONLINE - August 8, 2007, 03:46 PM



The Beijing 2008 Olympics are just one year off as of August 8. As the
country celebrates the countdown to the Summer Games, German
commentators take a critical look at the country's democratic and civil
liberties deficiencies.


Free Tibet activists unfurl a protest banner on the Great Wall of China,
just before getting detained by police.

August 8 is the start of the one-year countdown until the 2008 Summer
Olympics begin in Beijing. The Middle Kingdom is using the games as a
coming-out party to showcase a communist country that in less than 50
years has emerged from practically feudal conditions under Mao to become
one of the greatest economic success stories of the new millennium.

But this week also underscores the contradictions of the dictatorship as
it prepares for its golden moment on the world stage. When it comes to
respecting human rights, the country could use the kind of ambitious and
forward-looking reforms that have made its economy so successful.

Earlier this week, authorities arrested journalists from the press
freedom non-governmental organization Reporters without Borders after
they unfurled a banner outside the Olympic Organizing Committee's
offices in Beijing protesting against the incarceration of 29 Chinese
reporters. The banner depicted the Olympic rings as handcuffs -- a
symbol of the lack of freedom of speech in China. Arrests were also made
of Free Tibet activists who hung a banner reading, "One World, One
Dream, Free Tibet 2008" on the Great Wall of China.

Meanwhile, a group of 40 prominent Chinese dissidents, some of whom are
in jail, published an open letter to President Hu Jintao and
International Olympic Committee President (IOC) Jacques Rogge. In the
missive, they called for the communist government in Beijing to use the
opportunity presented by the Olympics to give amnesty to political
prisoners, permit exiled Chinese to return and provide just compensation
to people forced to move because of massive infrastructure projects like
the Three Gorges Dam. They also demanded the establishment of free
unions as well as an independent committee to oversee Olympic spending.

Amnesty International has also lashed out at China for civil liberties
deficiencies. "Unless the Chinese authorities take urgent measures to
stop human rights violations over the coming year, they risk tarnishing
the image of China and the legacy of the Beijing Olympics," said Irene
Khan, secretary general of Amnesty International.

German commentators on Wednesday look critically at the developments in
China, but also see the Beijing Olympics as an opportunity for the
government to implement greater democracy.

The business daily Handelsblatt writes:

"Probably no event has ever before been so thoroughly planned in China
as the 2008 Olympics. Both the government and the Communist Party know
that the Summer Games can give a new development boost not only to
Beijing but to the whole of the Middle Kingdom. If China's society
succeeds in presenting itself as an open and friendly host, then the
benefits will make themselves clear in the form of ringing cash registers."

"But whether the People's Republic succeeds in giving itself a modern
image also depends on how it behaves towards its critics. In that
respect, the outlook still looks dark. Anti-AIDS activists are
oppressed, the foreign press is harrassed and dissidents are banished to
labor camps. The government in Beijing is making a serious mistake if it
believes that it only needs to silence unpleasant journalists, people
who have been forcibly resettled and dissidents in order to transmit the
image of a clean China. As long as China rejects universal standards
when it comes to human rights, this dream will remain unfulfilled.
Seldom before has the Chinese leadership had such a large opportunity to
risk implementing more democracy. It only needs to use it."

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"Despite the fact that the organizers want the Olympics to be
apolitical, criticism will grow louder in the next 12 months. Bejing
2008 will be both an athletic and political event. The Chinese
government itself was responsible for the excessive national ambition
during the bid phase and making the pledge to better respect human
rights. More than anything, though, the games will not remain apolitical
because they are symptomatic of China's real dilemma. The country wants
to act and be respected like a major power and it wants to be accepted
in Europe and America, but without having to demonstrate any particular
responsibility or political or moral superiority. But any country that
travels with a checkbook to Zimbabwe, that supports a dictator who
tolerates the genocide in Sudan because of his love for oil, that runs
internment camps in its own country and that censors and arbitrarily
detains people, can't exactly expect undivided sympathy and nor can it
invoke the Olympic peace."

"Realpolitik offers China a chance to be honored for its achievements in
opening up the country and implementing reforms in recent years. The
country is at the helm of the Asian modernization movement and serves as
a model for many of its neighbors. It is also becoming a competitor to
the US in terms of its attractiveness as a business location."

"Still, the government in Beijing is obviously underestimating the
political baggage that comes with these Olympics. Just as the West even
today understimates China's ambitions and has no answer to its own
dilemma: namely, how to exercise influence over the would-be world
power. Both sides could learn a lot from each other. Let the games begin."

The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"Protesters are thrown in jail. Reporters are hindered from doing their
work. For months the country has polemicized against minorities,
including Tibetans. The Dalai Lama has been disparaged as a dangerous
separatist. The 'fellow countrymen' in Taiwan are threatened again and
again with war if they dare to do anything that looks like declaring
independence. Is this what one should expect from a country that is just
one year away from welcoming the world's best athletes to a major
sporting event? The Chinese will only be satisfied with the Olympic
Games if this athletic event becomes a 'Chinese championship' and if
there is only positive, glossy media coverage."

The Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"The main point for China in this epic production is to present an image
of a modern, open country. This also provides an opportunity for the
West to exert some influence on Beijing."

"Last week, China finally agreed -- after years of resistance -- to
participate in a United Nations peacekeeping mission to Darfur. Pressure
from Hollywood stars who threatened to boycott the 'genocide games' --
including Steven Spielberg -- has supposedly played a role. Spielberg
has been hired to help produce the opening ceremonies. Fears that too
much attention will also be focused on the Chinese occupation of Tibet
has also led Beijing to re-open dialogue with the Dalai Lama."

"The West should use this historic opportunity, but without overplaying
its hand. Closing some of the distance between the West and the Far East
would be worth far more than a China that seals itself up after the games."

-- Daryl Lindsey, 3:00 p.m. CET

Articles in this Issue:
  1. Tibetan Canadian Observer detained in Beijing (SFT)
  2. One World, One Dream, One Big Human Rights Problem (Der Spiegel)
  3. Unlucky start to Games countdown (Scotsman)
  4. Great Wall protest (Vancouver Sun)
  5. China detains third Canadian, a leader of activist group seeking free Tibet (CP)
  6. 3rd Canadian detained by China, student group says (CBC)
  7. Activists arrested in China (The Province)
  8. Protesters in action as Beijing gets set for one-year countdown to Olympics (AP)
  9. Parents worried after 2 Vancouverites reportedly held in China (CBC)
  10. Canadians detained in China now leaving country, reports say
  11. Activists Step Up Criticism of China, One Year Before Beijing Olympics (VOA)
  12. Beijing Olympics can't avoid political issues (New Zealand Herald)
  13. China: Human-Rights Pressure Increases As Olympic Countdown Begins
  14. Thousands of Tibetans march in Indian capital against China's rule in Tibet (AP)
  15. Tibetans protest 2008 Beijing Olympics (ANI)
  16. Tibetans to hold massive rally against Chinese government (IANS)
  17. Indian Tibetans march to shame Olympics host China (Reuters)
  18. Terror in Tibet
  19. Sinopec establishes exploration base in Tibet

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