To Boycott or not to Boycott the Beijing Olympics?
The last thing China needs as it heads into the stretch run preparing for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games is an international outcry to boycott the games to be held in Beijing. But that is where things stand after the Chinese government used brutal means to put down Tibetan protesters two Fridays ago.
Many organizations worldwide have called for a boycott of the 2008 Olympic Games, considering this to be the last straw for a country that has a history of non-humanitarian behavior, including being considered a major cog in the continuing genocide in Darfur.
On March 14, the Chinese government sent troops into Tibet to put down protests calling for an autonomous state. What actually happened afterward is uncertain, as the Chinese government alleges that only 18 were killed, whereas the exiled Tibetan government contends the death tally to be in the hundreds. What can be certain is that it is difficult to give the Communist Chinese government, who has complete control over all media outlets including television and the Internet, the benefit of the doubt.
Since these actions on March 14, in addition to China’s continuing involvement in the Darfur situation, many independent groups and individuals have begun advocating a boycott of the 2008 games. American director Steven Spielberg stepped down from his position as artistic adviser for the games, while many members of Congress, along with humanitarian groups throughout the world, have thrown the word “boycott” into public consideration. No nation has committed to anything that drastic just yet.
President George Bush has come forward and publicly spoken against an Olympic boycott, being quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying the Olympics “should be about the athletes and not necessarily about politics.” Similarly, the European Union stated that a “boycott would not be the appropriate way to address the work for respect of human rights, which means the ethnic and religious rights of the Tibetans,” as stated in the Times.
An idea that is growing more popular is a political boycott of the Olympic opening ceremonies, in which the heads of states and other powerful political figures would decline their invitations to the ceremony. First put forth by France-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, this “mini-boycott” is an issue that French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner wants to discuss with the European Union later this week.
China, which considers the summer games a chance to gain the respect of the rest of the world, has tried to dispel any talk of a boycott by accusing the advocates of such action of politicizing the Olympics. And on this point, China is correct. The Olympics are a chance for the world to see the world’s best athletes perform on the grandest stage. It is proof that the world can indeed unite for one cause and a celebration of that fact. Allowing world conflicts to trickle into the Olympic games is counter to what the Olympiad stands for, and would be unfair to both the athletes who have trained so hard for the event and the spectators who have eagerly awaited it for four years.
That said, the rest of the world should not stand pat while China allows violence to continue in both Tibet and Darfur. Foreign affairs should be kept in the political arena where they belong, and thus the “mini-boycott” put forth by Reporters Without Borders would be the best route to take.
In no way should the international community condone China’s continued support of actions against humanity. If the world’s major political leaders were to abstain from what the Chinese have built up to be their coming-out party, it would be a hard enough slap in the face to get the message across.