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Thursday, August 16, 2007

China can do no wrong

by Peter Worthington - Toronto Sun - August 13, 2007

How things have changed! In 1979, some 28 years ago, then-U.S. president Jimmy Carter urged that because of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, the 1980 Moscow Olympics should be boycotted.

When the International Olympic Committee rejected Carter's proposal that the Moscow Olympics be switched to Greece, the U.S. Olympic Committee sided with the president and announced American athletes would not be attending.

Ultimately, the decision whether to attend the Moscow Olympics was left to individual Olympic committees. In Britain, for example, the government supported the boycott, but its Olympic Committee opted to compete -- as did France, Italy and Sweden.


The 1980 Moscow Games were a financial and international disaster. Some 60 countries boycotted Moscow, where Soviet athletes won 195 medals, of which 80 were gold.

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The great Russian dissident, Vladimir Bukovsky, scolded that awarding the 1980 Olympics to Moscow was: "humanitarianly, a despicable act, legally, a crime."

A psychologically wounded but defiant Soviet Union announced it would boycott the following Olympics in 1984, hosted by Los Angeles. Few followed Moscow's lead.

A record number of countries competed, including China, for the first time in over 30 years.

Salt was rubbed into Soviet wounds when of 174 medals won by U.S. Olympians, 83 were gold. For the first time in its history, the Games showed a profit.

That was then, this is now. Although there are several campaigns underway urging that the Beijing Olympics be boycotted, that ain't going to happen. Maybe it should, but China is confidently celebrating that one year from now, the Games will be underway.

As if to mark the occasion, two young Canadians briefly disappeared into the maw of the Chinese judicial system for protesting on behalf of Tibetans that the Games should be boycotted. Melanie Raoul and Sam Price were two of six protesters who unfurled a banner on the Great Wall of China proclaiming: "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008." They were quickly expelled, to the relief of their families and the Canadian government, but the message was clear: No protests in China.

Groups like Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists, as well as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have documented various human rights abuses by the Beijing regime. China has jailed more journalists than any other country for criticisms of the system.


Also offensive is China's moral, financial and economic support of the Sudanese government, largely responsible for the genocidal practices underway in Darfur.

There's some irony in the 1980 Moscow Olympics being boycotted because of the USSR's invasion of Afghanistan, while today American, British, NATO and other soldiers are in Iraq and Afghanistan with no mention of boycotts.

China can violate civilized ethics with greater impunity than even the former Soviet Union did.

When it was bidding for the 2008 Olympics in 2001, China promised to ease human rights restrictions -- and then reneged on its vows almost immediately after it won. Again, no protests.

I would argue it's not just the continued repression of Tibet that should offend the civilized world, nor the branding of those it kidnaps and falsely convicts of terrorism (like Burlington, Ontario's Huseyin Celil), nor its repression of the usually peaceful Uighur people.

No, the greatest scandal being committed by China is the "harvesting" of organs from political dissidents and those sentenced to death for various crimes. Evidence is piling up of dissident Falun Gong adherents (a benign, apolitical creed of meditation and exercise) being imprisoned and kept alive until their organs - livers, hearts, cornea, kidneys, lungs, whatever - can be sold to rich and needy recipients with hardly any wait time. The evidence for these accusations is largely anecdotal, but the numbers of organ transplants is high enough to trigger warning bells.

But so what? China is a burgeoning market for Western investment, and that's the priority of the moment. Let the Games begin.

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