By China Watcher
Since last year, the first sign of a boycott of the Beijing Olympics began with the call by the Dream for Darfur activists over the Chinese government indifference attitude towards the claimed “genocide” in Sudan. Then the noise became a roar when the environmentalists joined in the call to say that the air quality in the Chinese capital is not conducive for international sporting events. And certain countries even proposed to bring their own food and “anti-pollution masks” for the Games, adding further insult to the host country and its organizer.
Human rights groups accused China of backsliding on its human rights development since the Games was awarded to the country in 2001. The various groups urged all Western democratic states to consider boycotting the Olympics to send a strong message to the authoritarian government. With the blown out violent protests of the Tibetans rebels three weeks ago in Lhasa and the surrounding regions followed by the “crackdown” of the Chinese government, the loud roar became a thunderous rumble and, the activists and the Western media clamored the European Community and the US, to at least boycott the opening ceremony. The International Olympic Committee was criticized for not supporting their cause.
From past Olympic records, it is already a known fact that the US led boycott of the Moscow Games in 1980 and Soviet led boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Games have failed to achieve anything other than hurting the athletes for being unable to compete and the sports fan for not being able to enjoy high quality and thrilling events once every 4 years.
Chinese rights interpretation
The Chinese equates human rights development with the progress made in uplifting the standard of living of an average individual. The Chinese has helped to bring 400 million rural people out of poverty and it has also made 9-year compulsory education possible, a commendable feat for a huge country with a population of 1.3 billion. Further the Chinese government has also promoted social equality and justice. Though slower, justice reforms were introduced and less people are now commuted to death. Laws were enacted to protect the individual civil rights and allowed private property ownership. Chinese have brought legal suits against provincial administration and compensations have been awarded. The Chinese numbering 300 million are allowed to surf the Internet almost freely for news and entertainment. I personally do not think a national “firewall” can forever keep someone from assessing “sensitive” sites.
The respect and protection of human rights are important and it is enshrined in the China’s Constitution. For an orderly society, the respect of local laws is also equally important for a stable environment conducive for growth and development.
China is a huge developing country with clear disparities in its level of developments especially between the Eastern coastal provinces and the hinterlands. The government has acknowledged that there is a need to make further progress in respect to human rights and as such, it had agreed to various annual rights dialogues with the West.
Present Chinese leaders believed in democratic principles but it is not agreeable to implement a one-vote one-person system at this juncture due to the imbalance state of developments. For any future reform to its current political structure, the catalyst of change will be from the Chinese people when they are ready and not from any pressure of the West. If the West thinks that by staging the Olympic Games can bring about a political change (with democratic ideals) in China, I think there will be faced with a huge disappointment.
Chinese culture and customs
The Westerners just do not understand Chinese culture and the pride that goes along with hosting an event. Let us look at the staging of a lavish wedding by a Chinese family. To a Chinese, even if the food served during the wedding was not up to expectation, the guest do not outright condemn the menu out of courtesy and respect for the host. Critical comments can be made only after the ceremony when the host asked for feedbacks in order to avoid going back to the same restaurant in the future. In Asia, we also do not visit our friends’ home to make negative comments of his house interior and layout unless we are asked to do so. Bringing disrespect to his home and his family is frown upon and is not encouraged.
Similarly, the hosting of the Olympics is also like a wedding although on a far greater scale and complexities, the host must be respected. But the West chose to shame China with clear disregard of an important Chinese traditional practice and custom. It is not surprise at all that the majority of the Chinese - locals and overseas – who remain united in supporting the Chinese government stance on Tibet and the criticisms of the Western move to boycott the Games. It has nothing to do with nationalism.
With politics, it is sad that the Beijing Olympics have become more divisive rather than a united force to bring about development and excellence in sports.