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Both Ways Beijing

Opinion Editorial
May 14, 2008

By Mike Krause

Here’s how “both ways” Beijing works: First, China’s communist government vigorously pursues the 2008 Summer Olympics, and the International Olympic Committee makes the horrid decision to grant Beijing the games. Then when the regime’s domestic and world-wide thuggery–such as its brutal military occupation of Tibet, or its complicity in the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan– gets put under some scrutiny, Beijing cries foul and whines that the games should not be politicized.

“There is a handful of people who are trying to politicize the Olympic Games,” Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told reporters last year. “This is against the spirit of the Games. It also runs counter to the aspirations of all the people in the world, and so their aims will never be achieved.”

What a load of blather. Since Beijing is at the head of the line to politicize the Olympics for its own benefit, it is perfectly reasonable for those who care about human rights to take advantage of the Olympics and help shine a light on one of the world’s great human rights violators. And given the scope of the misery that Beijing heaps not only on its captive nations at home, but also exports around the world, there is no shortage of causes to take up.

“The games have long been used by host nations to showcase their modernity, power, and international prestige. Beijing worked doggedly to get the games for precisely these benefits,” said an editorial from last year in The Hill, a Washington, D.C. newspaper that covers Congress. Noting that China wants to “wear the games like a testimonial or badge of global acceptance” the Hill makes the correct conclusion that Beijing “cannot have it both ways — inviting praise but complaining that criticism is out of bounds.

China’s oppression of Tibet is already both widely known and widely criticized. And while the current international attention being focused on the brutal nature of China’s military occupation of Tibet is well deserved, there are other captive nations with oppressed peoples within China that receive far less attention.

Like Tibetans, The Uighers (pronounced “wee-gers”) of China’s Xinjiang Province (or what was called East Turkestan before China took it by force) and the Mongolians of Inner Mongolia have lived under the thumb of Beijing for a half-century, suffering similar religious persecution at the hand of Chinese communists and likewise having their national identity steadily wiped out by the large-scale and deliberate re-settlement of Han Chinese into Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia by Beijing.

Also well known (though not criticized nearly enough) is China’s complicity in the genocide being perpetrated by the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum against pastoral tribes-people in the Darfur region of Sudan. First China buys Sudan’s oil, then China turns around and not only sells arms back to Sudan, but uses its seat on the United Nations Security Council to give political cover to the mass-murderers in Khartoum. Indeed, the connection between Beijing and Darfur has become so clear, that the summer games in Beijing have been nicknamed the “Genocide Olympics.” (For more on Darfur, see dreamfordarfur.org, or sudanreeves.org).

But besides propping up genocide, China has also enabled the Robert Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe to cling to power and ruin an entire country. “Despite international criticism, the Chinese government has been a longstanding backer of Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe’s authoritarian regime, supplying it with jet fighters, military vehicles and guns,” reports London’s Guardian newspaper.

In April, a Chinese cargo ship carrying a reported 77 tons of small arms from China and bound for Mugabe’s land-locked Zimbabwe was turned away from several African ports.

China defended the shipment as “perfectly normal trade in military goods between China and Zimbabwe.”

That Beijing considers arming one of Africa’s most thuggish authoritarian regimes only months before the opening of the Summer Olympics to be “perfectly normal trade” only underscores the point that Beijing deserves as much pre-Olympics human rights attention as possible.

So if you care at all about human rights, go ahead and “politicize” the Olympics in Beijing to your hearts content. China really has no room to complain.

Mike Krause is a senior fellow at the Independence Institute in Golden and blogs about China at regimewatch.com.