Agam's Gecko
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Parmilitary police watch over the bird's nest
Chinese paramilitary police watch over Beijing's Bird's Nest Olympic Stadium.
Photo: Reuters

t isn't only fundamentalist imams and Canadian thought police who are offended by free speech these days. Count China's communist rulers among the grievance club.

Actually that's a bit unfair, for the touchy imams and the western opinion-vetters are all late-comers to this party. The CCP has been launching childish tantrums over free speech for as long as anyone can remember. And nobody can do it better than a Beijing mouthpiece. And boy, is that People's Daily ever pissed.

The 2008 Olympic Games were awarded to Beijing only after the CCP had politicised them, solemnly promising that in return for such recognition, great strides would be made toward openness, freedom and the human rights of her citizens. It was a deal, a handshake agreement with the IOC, and this organisation now knows what any observer of China's one party rule has known for decades: their word can never be taken at face value. And they really dislike being called on it.
China attacked those it accused of seeking to politicise this summer's Olympics yesterday, predicting that attempts to use the Games to change national policy were doomed to failure.

The rare outburst from the usually secretive Government appeared in an angry opinion piece in the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party. It offered an insight into increasing sensitivity within the leadership towards criticism by international activists of its policies, ranging from freedom of religion to independence for the island of Taiwan.
And their colonial rule and occupation of Tibet, suppression of Chinese democrats, etc.
China would not be cowed, the article insisted. Its author wrote: "They believe they can exert enough pressure on the Chinese Government to force China into a situation where it cannot but do their bidding. These people have made the wrong calculation."
The wrong calculation was yours, Mr. Party. You bought the games with sweet promises you never intended to keep, and now feign offence because others are reminding you of your pledge. Remember? Something about "democratic reforms," giving your people the human rights they are owed -- things they should have had long ago, had the CCP not been keeping it from them? No one is "bidding" you to do anything other than keep your own promises.
"There is no country in the world hosting an Olympics that would compromise on its own core interests."
There is no country in the world which should be allowed to host an Olympics, whose core interests include propping up murderous thugs like the ones ruling Sudan and Burma, ruthlessly suppressing the freedom of conscience of its own people, and obliterating one of the oldest civilisations on earth with colonial policies. If those are your core interests, then you are disqualified from your bid to showcase yourself as a "great power" and "leading nation" of the world.
While China was open to criticism and shouldered its share of taunts and harsh nitpicking, it could not accept being dragged into a miasma of politics, the piece said. Critics were hurting not only the feelings of 1.3 billion Chinese, but were dragging the Games into a whirlpool of politicisation. That politicisation may have started as early as 2001, when China's own Olympics bid committee argued that awarding the Games to Beijing would help the development of human rights.
The last sentence there is true, and would never appear in People's Daily but is a comment by the Times writer. Again, the "miasma of politics" began when political promises from Beijing were trusted (a silly mistake which should never have been made). This is CCP boilerplate, especially the bit about anything they don't like causing "hurt feelings" of 1.3 billion Chinese. I've heard it a hundred times in various other contexts.

A crackdown on dissidents has been ongoing, and will intensify in the months before the games. They must be taken "out of circulation" before the guests arrive. Restrictions on journalists are far from the openness which was promised. Every possible vent for non-permitted views must be bolted down tightly, and don't even contemplate a side trip to Tibet. The rulers are very concerned that something might come up between now and August 8 -- Burma, Sudan, Taiwan, Tibet, Chinese democratic movement ... or something unexpected. All must be kept quiet for the next six months, at any cost.
"If at each subsequent Olympics people stand up and use politics to maliciously attack the host nation, and use ideology to draw up boycotts, where does that leave the Olympic spirit?"
That one's easy. If the host nation (see Nazi Germany or Soviet Union) maliciously attacks the basic freedoms of its own people, supports regimes around the world who do that and worse to their own people, and imposes its own totalitarian colonial presence on a neighbouring country for half a century while constantly increasing its grip through massive population transfer, then "drawing up boycotts" is just one way to show there's still life in that old Olympic spirit yet.

Only on rare occasions will the current Chinese leaders ever admit they lied. During the spread of SARS in 2002-2003 the entire world knew they were lying about it, and still they insisted they weren't. When foreign health officials visited Beijing to check things out, and Chinese officials conducted an episode of "Keystone Medics" with ambulances racing around the city carrying SARS patients (in order that they wouldn't be found in the hospitals), the government insisted that contrary views were "hurting the feelings of 1.3 billion Chinese." Now we hear that at least 10 workers have been killed in Olympic facility construction, again giving lie to previous assurances that nothing of the sort ever happened.

A record of deception like this is what makes me suspicious to hear that two elderly Tibetan monks were recently found hanged in Tashilhunpo Monastery, seat of the disputed Panchen Lama. The two monks were involved in the recognition of the boy who Tibetans still recognise as Panchen Lama, who was quickly apprehended by the communists and replaced with their own selection. The Chinese Panchen visits the monastery rarely, while the Tibetan Panchen's whereabouts are still unknown 13 years later. Tashilhunpo is now solidly under the control of a Communist Party "Democratic Management Committee," and the two dead monks are said to have been "humiliated and ostracised." No suicide notes were found. They both would have been part of the monastic team who would have searched for the next Dalai Lama.

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