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Monday, April 14, 2008

Same old China

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Wow, when was the last time the people of San Francisco—"the gentle people with flowers in their hair"—turned out to protest in such numbers the actions of a commie country?


I don't keep track, but there they were last week, thousands fussing over how Red (as it used to be called) China is oppressing Tibet and adding to the miseries of Darfur. Even in Chicago there were protests.

Protests of communist dictatorships are, like the Cold War, gone but not forgotten. The flame of anti-communism burns brightly only in isolated spots, such as in south Miami, where expatriate (and free) Cubans keep hope alive for democracy and liberty in their country.

China, we're repeatedly told, wants to showcase itself to the world during this summer's Olympics, but the protesters are wounding the country's pride, and we'll be sorry for that. To which democratic nations can rightfully respond: Tough. You want to emerge from the shadows as a member of the civilized world, then become more democratic, as many of us are doing.

My only gripe with the protesters is that they are mostly focused on the suffering that China causes outside, not inside, its borders: the suppression of Tibet and its Sudan dealings that contribute to the genocide in Darfur. Those are big, bad things, but let's not overlook the tyrannical rule that the communist regime imposes on the more than 1 billion of its own people. Human Rights Watch points to abuses that are just the result of its hosting of the Olympics: media and Internet censorship, extrajudicial house arrests and sentences of government critics for the "subversive" crime of criticizing the government, abuses of migrant construction workers and forced evictions of homeowners and tenants.Recently, the group said, "leading human rights advocate Hu Jia was given a 3½-year sentence for criticizing the Chinese government in the context of the Games. Previously, Yang Chunlin received a 5-year sentence for having begun a petition titled, 'We want human rights, not the Olympics.' "

This isn't the progress that the International Olympic Committee had in mind when it awarded the Games to China. By exposing China to the currents of freedom brought to its shores by the international community, the IOC hoped Beijing would moderate its behavior. Nice try.

By blessing China with the Games, the IOC ignored a long history of suppression of religion, association, protest and other rights. "Ordinary citizens face immense obstacles to accessing justice, in particular over issues such as illegal land seizures, forced evictions, environmental pollution, unpaid wages, corruption and abuse of power by local officials, a situation that fuels rising social unrest across the country," Human Rights Watch said. The result has been growing citizen protests and their suppression across the landscape.

But large protests, some involving as many as 10,000 people, were reported last year in almost all of China's 34 provinces. "In speeches and articles top security officials acknowledged the heightening of social conflicts but remained defiant toward greater independence of the judiciary, blaming 'hostile' or 'enemy forces' for trying to use the nation's legal system to undermine and westernize China. A string of lawyers defending human rights cases [has] been suspended or disbarred under a yearly licensing system that acts as a general deterrent to taking cases viewed as 'sensitive' by the authorities."

And we are not even getting into the deadly quashing of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests or forced abortions.

The IOC's awarding of the Games to China is itself a violation of the second of the six "fundamental principles of Olympism," which is "to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity."

In light of China's abysmal failure to honor that principle, the IOC should be honor-bound to withdraw its sponsorship of the Games. Of course, that would be incredibly naive, considering all the billions of dollars at stake; about as naive as hoping that a grossly commercialized athletic event would convince China to change its ways.

1 comment:

P.K. said...

So how do you feel about all those "American" corporations that moved good paying middle-class jobs to China, strengthening its economy in the process? Then, if that wasn't bad enough for the U.S., they were given tens (if not hundreds) of billions in "job creating" tax breaks over the last several years which, correct me if I'm wrong, in effect had Us The People subsidize the cost of moving those jobs to China.

Of course, they have no intention of moving their corp. HQs over there because the U.S. spends more than all other countries combined on our military, allowing them to benefit without paying anywhere near the corporate tax rate in many cases.