First I was agreeing with Greg Sheridan, and now I find myself agreeing with long-serving Qld Liberal MP, Peter Slipper, who has strongly criticised Kevan Gosper, Australia’s senior member of the International Olympic Committee, for his ridiculous slurs against pro human rights and Tibet protestors as “professional spoilers filled with hate and resentment”.
The IOC’s repeatedly justified their decision to hold the Olympics in Beijing by saying that as a consequence the Chinese government had promised to improve their human rights record, and the resulting global spotlight would encourage that promise to be met. Having ignored that promise from virtually the day it was given, the IOC can hardly complain now that the global community is trying to use that Olympic spotlight to help it achieve what the IOC said it would.
It is probably no coincidence that some in the IOC are now resorting to tawdry abuse that sounds quite similar to what comes forth from the Chinese government itself.
In a sign of how seriously the Chinese government took their pledge to improve their human rights performance, when IOC President Jacques Rogge asked the Chinese government to respect their promise to advance human rights, a Chinese government spokesperson chided him for saying the Games were in crisis, and urged him to “adhere to the Olympic charter of not bringing in any irrelevant political factors.” Core promise one day, ‘irrelevant political factor’ the next!
Elsewhere, the announcement by Chinese police that they had arrested 45 alleged Muslim terrorists amongst the Uighur people in the north-western province of Xinjiang has been met with some scepticism in a range of quarters (apart from the IOC, who amazingly say they haven’t been given any information about the “alleged terrorist plots.” Perhaps it comes under the category of an “irrelevant political factor.”
Perhaps the Chinese government hoped the arrest of the Uighurs would turn attention away from Tibet. Perhaps it will – but the result might be more people becoming aware about how much the Uighurs are copping in the neck from the Chinese regime as well. If you want to see how the Chinese government treats Uighurs, this story from the BBC last year gives an idea.
An ethnic Uighur Muslim activist has been executed by China for “attempting to split the motherland”. ….. The case has been criticised by rights groups who say the conviction was based mainly on his alleged links to an outlawed separatist movement. ….. Semed’s wife, Buhejer, told Radio Free Asia she was only allowed 10 minutes with her husband before he was executed.
I doubt the 45 Uighurs who’ve been arrested are feeling very comfortable to the moment.
Another activity of the Chinese government which gets little attention is their habit of sending back refugees who are fleeing North Korea, even though many of them undoubtedly are killed as a consequence.
In another apparent example of the Olympics leading to a ramping up rather than a winding down of human rights problems, it is reported that the Chinese government has
demanded the U.N. refugee agency grant no more asylum to North Korean refugees flowing into the country until the Beijing Olympics is over, threatening not to issue exit visas for 17 North Korean refugees being protected by the agency in the Chinese capital unless the demand is met.
That is, they won’t even give them visas to go to other countries, such as South Korea, which will almost certainly give them asylum. This site documents more of this practice, and asserts that “China is trying to ”cleanse” itself of North Korean refugees to help insure a dissent-free Olympics.”
Finally, a couple of opinion pieces arguing for and against engaging fully with the Olympics. This one by Binoy Kampmark on the ABC website argues in favour of boycotts, while this one in The Age by Kimberley Crow, who has been selected in the Australian rowing team for the Olympics, criticises those who are getting on the “boycott bus”, and says that Olympic great Dawn Fraser, who has said that human rights concerns means she will not be attending in Beijing, is “trivialising the underlying strength of the Olympic movement.”