Thursday, February 28, 2008

One polemic by Alison Ross

Olympic-sized Shame
by Alison Ross

To my great distress, all signs are pointing to China as being poised to become the next imperialist power of the world. It's bad enough that America is the imperialist bully du jour, but China? China's human rights record is abysmal, and if China leads the world, we are truly in trouble.

(And for anyone deploring my seeming anti-China sentiment, keep in mind that I am referring to the government of China, not the people, just as when I refer to America I am referring to our government. The Chinese, just like the Americans - just like anyone - are often just haplessly innocent players.)

Recently, Amnesty International was accused by the Chinese government of "politicizing" the Olympics, since the human rights group vociferously opposes China's malicious behavior toward Tibetans protesting the Olympic torch running.

But are human rights political? Amnesty says not, and I would tend to agree. Animals and humans are endowed with certain crucial rights at the time of our birth. Governments sometimes attempt to suppress such rights, and this is when the situation turns "political." But this does not signify that human rights are in essence political. Human rights simply exist as a neutral innate part of our lives. It's always RIGHT to uphold the tenets of human rights, no matter the situation or location. And one of our rights is that of protest when we deem that our intrinsic human dignity is being subverted.

Given its government's abhorrent human rights record, China does not to deserve to host the Olympics. In hindsight, nor did America, but that's another topic for another time. The Chinese government is one of the most blatant violators of human rights - the government practices internet censorship, pervasive worker abuse, protest suppression, and oppression of Tibetans. Whether Tibet is rightfully a part of China or not is beside the point; the Tibetans do not merit such brutal treatment (and of course nor does anyone). During Mao's Cultural Revolution, thousands of Tibetan monasteries were destroyed, nuns and monks were raped and tortured, thousands were killed, and thousands more fled into exile. And the brutal abuse continues to this day, as we have seen.

And, of course, China's latest transgression is rooted in the Darfur conflict, with China refusing to lend support to peace efforts there.

According to Amnesty International, when China first bid for the Olympics, it made a promise to the International Olympic Committee that if it was selected as host, Beijing would improve "all social conditions, including education, health and human rights" and "give the media complete freedom" to report news in China in the lead-up to the Games.

But China is not living up to its promises, and Amnesty has found that "Prominent and peaceful human rights activists are being rounded up and jailed. Tibetan protesters are met with intimidation, arbitrary detentions and in some cases lethal force. Web sites are being blocked. TV broadcasts are being censored and foreign journalists are denied access to Tibet altogether - as part of a massive pre Olympics 'clean up.' "

Granted, no country is exemplary in the area of human rights, and no country is infallible in other ways either. But certainly we can do better than allowing one of the worst abusers of human rights to host a cherished athletic spectacle that will be viewed by millions, thereby effectively enabling such absues and legitimizing the Chinese government's egregious crimes against human dignity?

Visit Amnesty International for more information about its Olympic campaign.

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