Sunday, February 17, 2008

Western motivated boycott of the Beijing Olympics is considered a big snub for all Chinese throughout the world.

By China Watcher

If you are able to read some of the forum and “blogs” comments – both in Chinese and English - on the many topics linking the Beijing Olympic Games to the Darfur issue, you would have noticed that there were scores of people of Chinese descent including overseas Chinese who feel offended by the constant barrage of unfair criticisms leveled on China. Some of those Western civil and rights groups who hold extreme views even called for a boycott of the Games for the lack of Chinese pressure on the Sudanese government to end the humanitarian crisis in Dafur.

The Beijing Organizing Committee (BOC) commented that linking the Darfur issue to the Olympic Games will not help to resolve the sufferings of the Sudanese people and is also not in line with the Olympic spirit to separate sports from politics. BOC also confidently announced that the preparations for the opening and closing events were progressing smoothly and it would be a success despite the pullout of Mr. Spielberg from the Committee in charge of such ceremonies.

Finding a replacement should not pose much of a problem as there are lots of capable talents in the like of Chinese directors Zhang Yimou. In the first place, why should the BOC hire foreign artistes who tend to have many hypocritical consciences and worse still, they can easily be manipulated at the last minute by the various rights groups to serve its controversial agenda.

The Chinese foreign spokesperson told the media that China has made significant steps to alleviate the sufferings of the people in Darfur by appointing a special envoy in May 2007 who visited the poverty stricken region 3 times and has also sent 140 engineers to help prepare for the hybrid UN-African peacekeeping force. Another 175 engineers will be deployed in the next 6 months. The agreement by the Sudanese government to accept the hybrid peacekeeping force was believed to be through the negotiation skills of the Chinese government, an effort which earned kudos from the US. This pragmatic move to use soft power on the Sudanese government has worked to a certain extent whose previous stand was an outright rejection of UN forces on its soil. China’s efforts were also commendable as it is a slight departure from its non intervention of the affairs of an independent sovereign country at the bilateral level, which remained as one of the core principles of its foreign policies since it appointed itself as a voice of the developing world.

According to Xinhua news agency, the Chinese government has provided material assistance worth USD11 million to Darfur and USD1.8 million aid to African Union, and 500,000 U.S. dollars donation to the U.N. fund for solving Darfur issue. Chinese enterprises in Sudan also provided many assistance and constructed many projects there. In recent years, Chinese companies had helped dig 46 wells, build 20 small-scale power plants in Darfur and water supply projects in southern and northern Darfur states, as well as provide teaching equipments.

Political activists and sympathetic artistes claimed that such initiatives were inadequate and there are still persistent human killings in the region as reported by the Western media. If I am not mistaken these groups would only be pleased if China completely pull out its support – both politically and militarily - of the present Sudanese government. But if that really happened, do you think it will help? Even international economic sanctions do not work on many “rouge” nations like Myammar, Zimbabwe, North Korea and Iran. In actual fact the opposite sometimes occurred – the people of such countries suffered even more.

Other human rights groups instantly jumped onto the anti-China bandwagon and started to call for a boycott of the summer Olympics for its claimed despicable human rights, restrictions of free speech and also, to champion its Free Tibet cause. So if you analyzed the whole context behind this crusade it actually goes beyond the theme of boycotting the Olympic Games because of Darfur.

Certain Western media highlighted the secrecy of Chinese commercial deals with the African nations during the Chinese President trip to Africa two years ago and I sensed that there is a tinge of jealousy in the whole matter. When the West concludes business contracts bilaterally with its buyer, do you get to see the details of such contacts or are there being published publicly?

Last Thursday, the Sports Minister of Slovania, Milan Zver, who holds the European Union’s Presidency said athletes should resist raising human rights and other sensitive political issues during the Beijing Olympics. The official added that though he understood the importance of human rights but the Beijing Olympics should be spared the controversy as it is not a good place for such issues to be raised. He believes that multinational companies with trade and investments in China should do more to speak out on the many human right issues rather than athletes.

International Olympic Committee’s President, Jacques Rogge, told broadcaster France 24, that the IOC will not play a political role and should not be called upon to do so and said that he did not fear a boycott of the summer Games. He further warned that athletics who used the event as a political stage would be punished.

US President George W. Bush was praised by the Chinese authorities for going ahead with his plan to attend the 2008 Beijing Olympics as he viewed the Games as a sporting event.

Chinese residents feel very proud that China, a country which was deemed a backward agricultural-based country 30 years ago, is now a dynamic and rising industrial nation who has the potential to successfully host a major and prestigious international event like the Olympics. The West has to understand and learn to accept that the Middle Kingdom was at one time a great nation 500 years ago and it is time for it to take its rightful place in the world after the humiliation it had suffered under developed powers in the last 200 years. Overseas Chinese in the majority supported the event and envisioned it as a dream for all Chinese by donating funds to the staging of this largest sporting meet. The Malaysian government has officially stated that The Beijing Olympic Games is not only the pride of the Chinese, but also the pride of East Asia.

After listening to the various public comments and the review of the opinions from the Chinese communities, the boycott of the Olympics motivated by the political activists is really a big snub on the Chinese people throughout the world and it has really hurt their pride and dent their respect for the West and this could even signify the beginning of the many clashes between the East and West over different values.

It is thus important to look squarely at the Olympics as a sporting event and the Charter must be reinforced to ensure that it is
not easily hijack for a political agenda. As tennis women world’s number one, Justine Henin, puts it appropriately that athletes must focus on its job of competing in sport and bring joy to the people watching the Games and nothing else.

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