Concerted Campaign Against China
By Riaz Haq
With China's resurgence on the world stage and its hour of
well-deserved glory approaching at Beijing Olympics this summer, those
opposed to China are out in force to spoil it for the Chinese people.
The efforts to recruit athletes to stage protests in front of the news
media during the Olympics and the recent troubles in Tibet and Western
China do not appear to be spontaneous. The West-based Free Tibet and
Team Darfur movements and their media-savvy supporters, including many
celebrities, athletes and actors, are attempting to foment trouble in
China before, during and after the Olympics.
The pressure is building up on national Olympic committees as well.
The US Olympic Committee has come under criticism for its stance on
protests. In response, the Committee spokesman Darryl Seibel said no
U.S. athlete would be reprimanded or censured for expressing a
critical opinion about China's human rights record, so long as it is
done in an appropriate setting. The code of conduct that 2008 U.S.
Olympians will sign asks them only to respect the terms of the Olympic
A growing number of athletes from all over the world have been signed
up by Team Darfur, an organization committed to raising awareness
about the crisis in Sudan.
It wants to put pressure on the Sudanese authorities, and also those
countries, like China, that do business with Sudan. Team Darfur plans
to highlight the issue at the Beijing Olympics. Canada's former
Olympic swimmer Nicky Dryden, a Team Darfur campaigner, wants athletes
to make a stand during the Beijing Games.
Steven Spielberg, a high-profile Hollywood producer and director, has
decided to relinquish his role in producing the Opening and Closing
ceremonies for the Beijing Games. Now there are fears that his
withdrawal may be followed by that of other western stars associated
with the Games. There was speculation yesterday that the music
producer Quincy Jones, who is writing the theme tune, might pull out.
A spokesman described the reports as "speculation" but added that
Jones was "keeping an eye on the situation".
What really worry the Chinese authorities are the growing calls for a
boycott of the Games. A poll of nearly 2,500 people for The Sunday
Times today shows strong support for Spielberg's stand, with 49%
saying they would back a boycott by British athletes, against 33% who
said such a boycott would be wrong. The poll found that 75% thought
Spielberg was right to pull out and just 12% thought he was wrong.
In Lhasa, where howling Tibetan mobs turned on ethnic Han Chinese and
Hui Muslims last Friday in the worst violence in nearly 20 years. Many
businesses owned by the Han Chinese and Hui Muslims were attacked and
burned. It should be noted here that most Hui are similar in culture
to Han Chinese with the exception that they practice Islam, and have
some distinctive cultural characteristics as a result. For example, as
Muslims, they follow Islamic dietary laws and reject the consumption
of pork, the most common meat consumed in Chinese culture, and have
also given rise to their variation of Chinese cuisine, Chinese Islamic
cuisine. Their mode of dress also differs only in that adult males
wear white caps and females wear headscarves or (occasionally) veils,
as is the case in most Islamic cultures.
News agencies report that a homemade bomb was thrown at a paramilitary
vehicle yesterday. Police fired teargas to disperse onlookers and
schools were ordered to close early. It was unclear how many people
were hurt. Residents said four police were killed or wounded but
officials would not comment.
The Chinese premier has accused the Dalai Lama of organized violence
by the Tibet government in exile along with its western supporters.
The scenes of violence perpetrated on the streets of Tibet and
neighboring provinces raise questions about the non-violence preached
by the Dalai Lama and his supporters. The Dalai Lama, speaking to the
media in India, has denied supporting violence. He has offered to
resign if the violence continues.
But the anti-Chinese protests and violence across Tibet and in
neighboring provinces have continued where many Tibetans live.
According to the news reports from a remote corner of Gansu province,
hundreds of Tibetans on horseback galloped through a town shouting
"Come back Dalai Lama" and "Free the Panchen Lama", before ripping
down a Chinese flag and raising a Tibetan snow lion banner.
Both the Indian and Nepalese governments have taken steps to curb the
Tibetans and other international protesters attempting to use their
soil for protests and marches against China.
Regardless of one's political views on Darfur, Tibet or China
policies, it is not hard to conclude that the efforts to disrupt
Beijing Olympics are being orchestrated by a coalition of well-known
anti-Chinese individuals and organizations with an ax to grind. It is
a shame that sports and politics are being mixed to the detriment of
promoting a better understanding through international sporting