If the Olympics were being held in Zimbabwe would we want to be part of it?

The human rights record of the Chinese Communist Party government has been a matter of closer examination since the International Olympic Committee decided the 2008 Olympic Games would be held in Beijing. The current violence in Tibet has increased that focus. 

The argument made by many people was the extra global scrutiny that would occur with the holding of the Games in Beijing would encourage the Chinese government to improve its very poor human rights record, as the eyes of the world would be watching.  As recently as this week, senior government Minister, Senator John Faulkner, argued in the Senate that

The greater international focus the Olympics will bring can serve only to give the international community a greater understanding of China, including its diversity and its complex challenges, and give China a deeper appreciation of international norms, ultimately assisting in a better human rights situation in China.

I can understand the reasoning behind this argument. Unfortunately, almost all the independent evidence suggests that the human rights record of the Chinese government has not improved since they were awarded the 2008 Olympics. If anything, it has continued to get worse. The recent crackdown against protests in Tibet, including the tight control and suppression of information out of Tibet, is a stark example of that.

It is worth noting that the Fundamental Principles of Olympism, part of the Olympic Charter adopted by the IOC, include the following:

  • Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.
  • The goal of Olympism 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
  • Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

As Senator Faulkner also said in the Senate

human rights abuses continue to occur in China, and China continues to fall short of international expectations, including with regard to the death penalty, torture, non-judicial detention and restrictions of freedoms of expression and information.

The people currently protesting in Tibet will be at risk of receiving just that sort of treatment from the Chinese government – unfair trials, torture, ‘re-education’ and forced labour and potentially even the death penalty – all conducted beneath a cloak of secrecy.

The Chinese government’s oppression and suppression of its own people extends to much more than its actions in Tibet. There are more executions carried out in China than every other country combined, with the organs of executed people sometimes used in transplants.  The use of torture and forced labour – often after seriously flawed judicial processes – is also well documented. Constraints of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of belief and freedom of information are severe. Human rights and pro-democracy activists, Uighers and especially Falun Gong practitioners are subjected to serious persecution.

I fully recognise that boycotting the Beijing Olympics will not stop all the human rights abuses of the Chinese government. I know that a boycott is a blunt and very imperfect instrument and is in many ways extremely unfair on athletes who have sacrificed enormous amounts. But I can’t stop thinking that the Olympics presents a very rare opportunity for the people of the world to send a message that is so strong that even an enormously powerful government like the Chinese regime will be unable to ignore it or dismiss it.

Everyone knows that the Chinese government does not have a good record on human rights. But I don’t think it is fully appreciated just how appalling current practices are.  I am all for maintaining dialogue and communication to try to encourage improvement.  But eventually one has to recognise that in some circumstances that is not enough. 

It is not unreasonable to draw parallels with the Olympic Games held in Berlin in 1936 when Adolf Hitler was in power.  In hindsight, do people believe it was right for Australia to have participated in that? Does anyone seriously suggest that Hitler improved his human rights record as a result of Berlin hosting the Games? Of course, international norms around human rights have developed enormously since those days, in part in reaction to what Hitler did in ensuring years.

Last year, the previous Australian government was happy to tell the Australian cricket team not to tour Zimbabwe.  In part this was due to player safety, but it was mostly with the aim of not giving Robert Mugabe the propaganda victory of hosting the Australian cricket team.  If the Olympic Games were being held in Zimbabwe or other countries such as Burma, I am sure that many more people would be suggesting Australia shouldn’t be part of it.

Unlike the United Nations or international diplomacy or even economic sanctions, the Olympics is not a government run vehicle. While it is run through the auspices of the IOC, the Olympic Games is a coming together of people, not government entities. And each of us as individuals has an opportunity to voice our views about the Olympics, and the actions of the government in the country it is being held in.

A “peoples’ boycott” isn’t about governments saying their nation won’t participate. Nor is it just about pressuring athletes not to participate. Athletes can participate but still strongly voice their concerns about the serious human rights abuses.  People can refuse to attend the Games. People can pressure governments to make stronger statements and demand they use their influence. People can pressure the many corporations who are sponsoring the Beijing Games to make statement and to use their position to demand real change, and refuse to buy their products if they will not act.  Sponsors include Visa, Kodak, Samsung, Panasonic, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s, General Electric, and Coca-Cola. They clearly have both economic and diplomatic power to exert influence on the Chinese regime. Given the clear evidence of major human rights abuses in China, failure for them to act is a legitimate cause for criticism.

There was a debate in the Senate on Monday regarding the situation in Tibet. You can read my speech at this link. I have already linked above to Senator Faulkner’s speech. Here are links to speeches from the Liberal Party’s Marise Payne are the Greens’ Bob Brown.

This link is to an online petition, which you can add your name to if you support calls for human rights in Tibet to be respected. GetUp! has also put up a petition, which you can access here.  GetUp’s site also has a blog post from Tenzin Atisha, the Dalia Lama’s representative in Australia.

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37 Comments

  1. I read somewhere,perhaps Hard Evidence Magazine, that ,in fact,their Constitution, doesnt allow this sort of behaviour,if my understanding,comprehension,and what was written as an article are all factually orientated.So if,a country is acting outside its constitutional law,in relationships with it,is it necessary to be concerned about reforming attitudes to what ,say, Australians would consider legit!?I say No!?I am awaiting Howard and Bush to be arrested on charges of many criminal doings,incl.human rights violations in another sovereign state.China is simply acting on matters of Tibetan citizens in a criminal manner and ,not even according to their own laws,so little has to be said,because it may also mean,any obligation in contractual arrangements,commercially with this country could be seen as not having sufficient legal power behind them,if co-signers are fully part of a government denying its own constitution on matters beyond its functional borders,as written within its constitution.Whatever China has made of Tibet ,cannot be an ordinary matter of its Constitution,and therefore must be an addition added to the Constitution by amended matters in comparison.When is it going to behave to the Constitutional requirements,set out in such!?Upon examination as co-signers to many things UNO,including Security Council..it would have to be in severe breech,in terms of its own Constitution and the UNO obligations.Perhaps, Chinese contracts across the Globe are in breech of its Constitutional powers,if set out in those powers are limitations of behaviour,by way of obligations,these description of obligation as a generality,may include commercial matters.

  2. Beijing was Sydney’s biggest rival in the 2000 Olympic Bidding contest. At the time John Fahey and others were only too happy to point out China’s appalling human rights record to get IOC delegates to vote for Sydney. 14 years after Sydney won its bid, little has changed in China regarding human rights and it is flaring up again with the Tibet situation. Unfortunately, economics trumps human rights here. Good on you for having the courage to speak out whilst others hide behind euphemisms and the trappings of office.

    I saw you on the Kerri-Anne show discussing this and note it was before the Tibet protests. Again you get in early. Good work! I don’t think you were given sufficient respect on the show but I think you got your point across.

  3. Hi there,

    I am participating in a debate at uni where I am asked to agree with you. This is very good material, thank you.

    It does, however, clash strongly with my own personal views on the issue.

    What makes a good or bad government is completely subjective. To many in the arab world the US government is grave oppressor. Should we boycott an Olympics held in LA? Would it be fair for countries to boycott the 2000 Olympics on the basis of the status of Aborigines in Australia?

    To me the Olympics represents, through sport, the one time in 4years we get shown what is possible. It’s where people come together in spite of racial, political or cultural difference and bring to life a better world.

    Do you really think we should sully this human spirit with boycotts against people we don’t happen to like?

  4. I’d say that having Germany host the 1936 Olympics only led Hitler to believe he was wonderful – thus increasing his sense of power and domination, along with his popularity.

    I have neighbours from Zimbabwe. If Robert Magabe set foot in our street, I can guarantee he would be murdered in a flash by normally quiet people. They might even get some competition from the South African neighbours.

    Should we send an Olympic team to Zimbabwe? Absolutely not.

    Should we send them to Beijing? No! We should pull out at the last moment, making it as inconvenient and embarrassing for their government as possible.

    Phil:

    It’s good to hear from you again. You’re right of course.

    We live in an undisciplined world, and as such, almost anything goes.

    Crispin:

    We don’t associate AT ALL with those we don’t happen to like. They behave like rubbish … we treat them like trash. They treat other people well … we come as their guests.

    We don’t do the worst thing – bury our heads in the sand and pretend they are nice, because then there will be even more mass murders, complete dictatorship and people living in fear.

  5. Crispin:

    I don’t agree that “What makes a good or bad government is completely subjective.” It is partly subjective, but certainly not completely. That, in part, is what international human rights standards are for – to provide somewhat objective benchmarks. On such benchmarks, the Chinese governments is demonstrably worse than Australia or the USA by a significant margin.

    People were always free to boycott the Sydney Olympics, and from memory a few people did advocate that. Likewise for an Olympics held in the USA. People who propse a boycott of whatever type can make the case, as I am doing here on this occasion, and as i did in regards to the abandoned Australian cricket your of Zimbabwe.

    It’s got nothing to do with boycotting “people we don’t like”. It is about the Chinese government, not the Chinese people. Many of the Chinese people are the ones copping the brunt of the serious human rights abuses, and they do not have the ability to speak out about this issue – nor do the Tibetans, nor the Burmese.

    I appreiciate the problematic aspects of a boycott, which is why I seek to take it beyond just a debate about the athletes, to aspects like corporate sponsors and what we can do as individuals. But all the usual mechanisms for trying to encourage improvement from the Chinese government appear to have failed, and the Olympics is a rare and in some ways unique opportunity to apply pressure. If you have other ideas of how to have a positive impact on improving the rights of the Chinese people, I’d love to hear it.

  6. Crispin, many countries did boycott the 1984 LA Olympics. There were also boycotts of the 1980 Moscow games.

    Andrew, a good example you might want to refer to is the boycott by African countries of the 1976 Montreal Olympics. The boycotting nations had no quibble with Canada but the very fact that New Zealand – who continued to play rugby with apartheid South Africa – was sending a team was enough to get many countries to sit out the Games.

  7. A case could be put that boycotting the OLympics,is both liking its government and people!?Simply out of care,because of all their bad decisions,and being honest rather than oppressive,say, like the U.S.A. in its attitudes often to China,is a manipulation of that honesty.Add the cigarette sales, the years of a single child family,now changing,and the gross irresponsibility on environmental matters until recently.I am not talking atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions,but the stuff getting in your lungs,like Australian bush fires.The human rights violations,incl. the tardy responses to coal workers safety,pay and conditions,and all the other stories that come out as a basic and terrible neglect of human concerns so obvious,the Chinese Government seems absolutely pathetic.If it is that pathetic,and I will be kind by not making a comparison with the U.S.A. leadership on U.S.A. issues,a boycott really would be a friendly act,so the Chinese give up their pathetic ways..for much better governance…by democracy or not.Tibet as a problem for the Government,is really just another problem of their own making,and shows a lack of finesse in a negotiating sense,to have better outcomes,as obviously the Tibetans want.Next they ll be importing chem trail technology to reduce life duration again.Grandfather Chairman whats his name,will then have U.S.A. robots as both enemies and servants.

  8. Dear Andrew and bloggers…

    Thankyou for the input.

    I’m definitely not denying human rights abuses in China. I also recognize China faces far more challenges in managing it’s sizeable population than does Australia.

    Also I find it difficult to draw a link between Zimbabwe and China. In the former there was a genuine security risk to Australian athletes, which is harder to argue in China. Secondly there is a significantly larger percentage of the population that feels the impact of the Mugabe regime.

    In China it’s far less clear how many people domestically disapprove of the government. Even the Dalai Lama has indicated he is against a boycott.

    Finally one must ask what is the utilitarian benefit in such a boycott? Will this in any way encourage China to improve its human rights position? Or will they perceive this as colonial-style interference and insult to their domestic sovereignty? What’s more, would they be wrong?

    I like Andrew’s rationale on sponsors etc and not just punishing athletes. Yet it seems pretty hypocritical that China remains our third largest trading partner (after Japan and the EU). What we are saying to China is ‘we disapprove of your HR record, and we are going to respond through public snubbing, but please continue pumping billions into our economy’.

  9. It is fair enough to point to the apparent inconsistency between advocating an Olympic boycott while not calling for trade sanctions. However, I think each approach has to be assessed on its merits, including considering what the “utilitarian benefits” might be, to use your phrase.

    It is hard to state with certainty what the impact of an Olympic boycott (of whatever type) might be, but I think it would undoubtedly send a very strong message to the Chinese government – of a sort and strength which I think is hard to send in any other way – without materially harming the Chinese population.

    I’m not blind to the fact that trade with China benefits Australia’s economy, but trade boycotts would also harm many everyday Chinese people. It is also a simple fact that – desirable or otherwise – China has the capacity to wreak significant economic harm in retaliation (especially on the USA at the moment). China would harm itself as well in doing so, so I think such retaliation is highly unlikely, but there’s no point running any risk if there’s not likely to be much gain in human rights standards.

    Having said that, I think human rights is an issue that must be raised in the context of any negotiations with China on a Free Trade Agreement, and we should look more closely at whether some of the products we do import from China are made under conditions of forced labour. I believe we should not import such products.

    I think it is plausible to argue that the sporting boycott did more to bring about change in South Africa than economic sanctions did. The ‘global pariah’ image brought about a type of pressure than economic constraints doesn’t do.

  10. Hi Sen. Bartlett,

    You have a very strong reasoning and whilst I do not agree I’m pleased that your voice is in parliament.

    Not purchasing sweat shop products is something my partner is very passionate about. I’m not sure how you’d identify such products, especially since people want these things because of the satisfying price tags. Still, I respect my partners views on these issues.

    To change tack a little on ‘what better could be done’ I’d start by saying antogising China is not the place to start. The Chinese practice of trade by non-interference is finding increasing favor around the world, and is rapidly supplanting the US-driven democratization catch’s.

    So the conflict starts by being largely ideological. For instance, China views issues like Tibet & Taiwan as being fundamentally domestic. If there is one thing that China holds above all else is sovereignty, not unlike our democracy. Propaganda is such in China that if Tibet was independant, they’d be no PRC. That is why in places like Kosovo, which the Chinese couldn’t care less about, they jump up and down about the breakaway province. The Kosovo war not withstanding, its the same reason the west lends such support.

    Thus dealing with China is not so difficult, if we recognise two things. The first is understanding and giving validation to Chinese values. The second is being at least a little sensitive to what China has to cope with at the moment. Historically speaking, when the Chinese haven’t felt threatened they’ve been amiable enough.

    This brings me with to what I believe would be more effective (albeit less politically mobilising). If human rights is your agenda then that has to be packaged in a way that its not trying to dictate Chinese culture and society. China has been sensitive to this ever since the opium wars.

    If you say to the Chinese;
     
    “we have great respect for your cultural identity and recognise the challenges you meet with tenacity.  In my own country our cultural identity is such that we value dadidadida…It’s not our desire to impose them on others, unfortunately our domestic integrity is such that it creates conflict when we import products from places that don’t align with those values.” 
     
    It would therefore improve our rapport immeasurably if we speak from our own sovereign identity.  This is something the Chinese relate to and respond to.  If we in turn show that human rights is our problem but that the Chinese social order isn’t, I am sure the Chinese would slowly work to improve human rights.
     
    At the moment our human rights rhetoric sounds a little too much like demands.  Calls for independent Tibet sounds too much like a security threat.  If I was China I would feel very unmotivated to do anything right now, and rightly so.
     
    But that’s all just my opinion, because you asked.  It’s obviously a very difficult issue and more complex than any one point of view.
     
    Thanks for your time.
     
    Crispin

  11. It is probable China will become the dominant world power sometime during in this century. At the present time the United States is living well beyond its means and is perhaps in malaise if not decline economically, socially and politically. Also, as this century progresses there will be increased competition for less abundant resources and perhaps all countries will be exposed to measureable falls in living standards for their populations. Perhaps we will see more conflicts over dwindling resources. How governments deal with China under these circumstances will be very interesting to see.

  12. A fact remains that Crispin isnt going near,as he describes China the way he does.And I simply state the Chinese Government isnt a representative body in any circumstance at all,and is the outcome of a revolution,that may have been necessary,but not every action then now and the future is at all justifiable,by maintaining a party name,some matters of tradition and some matters of historical human linkage.Chinese leaders today get around in suits,hardly carry a weapon themselves,and are simply not driven by a cultural purity of any notion whatsoever.All of that stated can be appraised as an outcome of individualism,as much as even exercises of clear vision,determination and simple logic attached to very simple,but useful choices for country and individuals.The right thing to do for China is to be completely honest in criticism as much as in praise,on a government level,on a personal level to whomever as Chinese citizens,and dare not to expect anything less in reciprocation.The Chinese Government is fully adult as individuals,and as individuals capable of grave error.I think they are not accepting criticism,as is obvious,for an entirety of reasons and the least is, they cannot handle it.They can handle it,but organising change dramatically is a terrible thing in large bureaus ,and if democratisation is occuring,there will be blockages to western ideas on that basis alone out of concern for their own processes,as modernisation and its effects within China will be the obvious first choice of dismantling harm done by modernisation.Like all countries,bar none I will say,what they set out to achieve and what they do,may not resonate well within government and the people…to be openly critical of its censorship in countries like ours,is just reminding the Chinese as Government they have a long way to go,to achieve what the government and peoples may desire..there is no good reason,to suggest open slather on the internet anywhere is good citizenship…. proceed honestly!

  13. Crispin, the problem I see with your suggested approach is that human rights aren’t negotiable. Human rights are rights that we have by virtue of being human.

    You are right to point to the positive things that will flow from the use of diplomatic language but – however you phrase the message – the content must be the same: human rights are not negotiable.

    Cultures differ across the world – this is sure. But people are people everywhere and by virtue of their humanity they are endowed with certain rights. It’s nothing to do with our culture or our values and everything to do with being human.

  14. Rather than Australia boycotting, perhaps Australia, the US, and the UK should be banned instead. Surely killing 500,000 people in Iraq is a worse human rights violation than what is going on in China (where are those WMDs anyway?). I imagine this is especially so given that those countries will try and think of every method possible not to help when a few million refugees they created want somewhere else to live (they’ll create social problems and refuse to assimilate in Australia, after all — just read the comments in the popular press which will no doubt be acted upon).

    I might also note that in terms of treating its own minority groups, Australia is hardly much better — its just it has already pretty much culturally eliminated its minority groups. I’m sure in 40 years time, the Chinese will look back and talk about how bad they were to the Tibetans, and decide to create a university scholarships as compensation and wonder how to increase their life expectancy. Perhaps they’ll send the military in again, but this time to save the children.

  15. Andrew:

    When I mentioned “those we don’t happen to like”, I was talking about the Chinese government – not its victims (the citizens).

    Crispin:

    I don’t think whether or not there is a security risk to our athletes is the only determinant of whether or not we should boycott the Olympics.

    Phil is right when he implies that a snub of this kind could show some degree of caring for the Chinese.

    Our athletics turning up there regardless would be (in some ways) a mark of respect for wrongdoing. Therefore, more wrongdoing is likely to follow.

  16. It seems that soon after the spirit of the Olympics were written down, they were put in a box somewhere, hopefully to be forgotten. This seems especially apt in the last 30 years or so (read Lords of the Rings to find out about the corruption of the IOC).

    But to answer Crispin’s question, China has signed a number of international human rights treaties (signifying their agreement), yet fails to uphold them. So they can’t say (as some people do) that these are western ideas imposed on another culture.

    But I’ve failed to answer the main question, which is I don’t think I would personally, but then I’m not an athlete who has trained for years to do this. Whatever the government’s stand is, it should at least be consistent.

  17. I dont think it is necessary to link athletes going to the Olympics with a continuous reward of wrongdoing.I doubt many in government get any joy at all, out of these happenings,although, it is likely sum see it as a measure of their power to cock a snoot at victims and critics overseas.It is plainly true many nations ,either as people or government havent behaved any better,after all death by bullet and torture etc. doesnt have to be restricted to an observation of government practice.Does anyone here know what the Chinese Policing Authorities rules of engagement or protocols are in matters dealing with Tibetans directly!?I note today Taiwan is going through its regular problems as thought and action about the mainland..Perhaps the Chinese have detected what may seem more than coincidence in two separate localities,and behaved according to that,as a perceived threat.Still,very bad actions on their part,and we should expect better governance,which doesnt mean I am pleased by Hackett or Thorpe,who are claiming to themselves a opinion that clearly sees the history of matters.The fact,remains,no matter how badly the Tibetans have behaved,the Chinese know by now,various means of enforcing their own law..including even being more authoritative,by issueing a action that says a meeting would be much better than what we can plan and intend.After all if the Olympics are the big deal,then it is still possibly likely,things that can go wrong will go wrong,and Murphy s Law is universal,even when Authority is being totally considerate,but, appears to be radically and dismally at fault.Lets ask therefore for a more compellingly human and heroic response ,from the Chinese Government, in this testing atmosphere for them,that shows human consideration at its highest examples!?

  18. The whole spirit of Olympic Games has been compromised for a long time now and has nothing to do with the original Games when ALL wars in ancient world had to stop during the Olympiad.
    So, it doesn’t really matter where we compete. I would not be surprised if the next chosen city for the Games were Baghdad, Fallugia or Guantanamo Bay.

    Tricky part of any boycott of China is the fact that we cannot possibly boycot i.e. Chinese goods and products, gas contracts, shoes and shirts and thousands of Australian and other Western companies who opted for manufacturing in China.
    Interestingly enough, European countries have been much wiser to try to limit Chinese expansion on their shelves.

    If we are brave enough we could impose sanctions on ‘Made in China’ articles and were left with empty shelves..

    We could destroy Iraq and help millions of Iraqi children suffer from hunger and lack of medicals during the infamous sanctions; Iraq was too weak to retaliate. We cannot repeat that trick with China.

    A country which has survived thousands of years will survive a bite of an insect.

    And, it is a sheer hypocrisy to support Kosovo as an independent state and not to HELP Tibet to declare independence from China. But perhaps Serbia is an easy target and China is not.

  19. Andrew I really have to point out your hypocrisy here. During the 2000 games there were 100’s of innocent human beings locked up in concentration camps all over the country and in Woomera they were being teargassed and water cannoned at will, denied lawyers and all human rights and that would have persisted for many more years if Jeremy Moore hadn’t had the guts to challenge it.

    For the razzle dazzle of the old black man and the little white girl, we still have aborigines living in 4th or 5th world conditions, demonised, vilified and ignored.

    And we are occupying 2 countries and murdering people with immunity while cheering every time Israel decides to murder a few thousands more of her neighbours.

    China would be quite right to laugh at us.

  20. Marilyn: leaving some of the hyperbole to one side, I don’t disagree that our country – as with every country – is far from flawless. But I do think there is a measurable and very sizeable difference between Australia and China.

    Despite all the atrocities that were inflicted on refugees by the Australian government, Jeremy Moore and the many other who opposed those actions and policies were never dragged off to ‘re-education’ camps or tortured themselves.

    Similarly, while the treatment of many Indigenous Australians remains a disgrace, it canot be compared to what is meted out to Uighurs or the Tibetans.

    And that’s without mentioning the massive constraints on freedom of speech and freedom of information, or the serious restrictions on freedom of religion or belief – including jail and torture.

    We should never use human righst abuses elsewhere as a way for excusing our own failings, but nor should we use the fact that we are not perfect as a reason not to speak out about failings elsewhere.

  21. I agree with Marylin. People locked up in our concentration camps had already been victims of insane sanctions and senseless wars and they were seeking our protection here according to ours and international laws. So our guilt is much greater, as we refused to help adults and children begging for help. Many of those kids and adults have been crippled for life by our detention system.
    The idiocy of these impromptu ‘laws’ was best tested on i.e. Vivien Alvarez case.

    One may argue whether our occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan is more humane than the occupation of the Tibet.

    But we have given ourselves a divine power to criticise Japs for whaling and keep on culling our native fauna and fish our seas dry..

  22. Andrew, there was no hyperbole in my bit. What is wrong with telling the truth about a nation built on genocide, massacres, land theft and so on? A nation that has helped to invade, bomb and slaughter in more countries than the Chinese ever have and then demanding the Chinese or anyone else give a toss what we say?

    No re-education camps but constant vilification, checking by ASIO, phones tapped in the case of Julian Burnside and others, demonising in the cases of Frank Brennan and Marcus Einfeld, bankruptcy in the case of others.

    Brutal forced deportations on false papers, the deportation of 8 month pregnant women to China for forced abortions, 14 or more deaths in those concentration camps built by Ruddock.

    Small beer many might think but it is not hyperbole and by saying ‘we are not perfect’ is the biggest cop out of your life.

    While the coalition of slaughter are in Iraq and Afghanistan for no reason we have no rights anymore to condemn anyone.

    It is a bit like a wife beater condemning another wife beater don’t you think?

  23. If each of us were to boycott the companies that sponsor the Olympic games, refuse to watch the games coverage on TV, refuse as far as possible to buy chinese-made goods, we could have an impact. The Chinese could, if sufficiently angered, go elsewhere for their minerals and the other things we sell them – would we be worse off? What is principle worth? Most new clothing in shops is Chinese made, but it possible to buy clothing in second-hand shops that isn’t (or if it was, it doesn’t enrich China any more) and fabric from India and other countries can be purchased. We need to look hard at how we got into this situation, where we have little ability, for example, to buy cheap footwear not Chinese made. It is possible, however.

  24. Hi Andrew.

    A sporting boycott of the Beijing Olympics would deprive Australian drug abusers the chance to win against all the other people cheating due to the bar being sent so high by their previously cheating peers.

    What I’m really trying to say is: the games are already pretty debased and meaningless, so I wouldn’t mind too much if Australia pulled out. However, given the lengths athletes go to in order to get into the events in the first place, I don’t know how many would agree to a boycott. Then there’s the backlash from the media interests who would stand to lose oodles of cash if Australia were out. It’s a tough ask.

  25. Good morning Andrew,

    Thanks for the article, and your further illumination of your thoughts on the matter.

    Whilst I respect your arguments, my emotional link to the process sends me to the opposite conclusion.

    Perhaps I should explain: I’ve trialled for the last two Olympics, been somewhat close, but missed out. Thus, along the way I’ve seen the investment of time, energy and emotions that go into the Olympic campaign. Especially in a sport such as mine, which is essentially amateur, the Olympics are an event where the athlete may have just one chance at representing, let alone winning.

    There’s something different in boycotting a cricket tour (which I still think is the wrong thing to do), as cricketers have several other alternatives in any given year.

    I also must question the idea that it “sends a strong message”, and argue that it does not do so. The fact that governments are not willing to do anything other than stop athletes competing sends no message other than that they have no commitment to the issue at hand.

    If it is sufficiently exercising the government of the day, perhaps they should actually consider a diplomatic and economic response, rather than just a posturing response as happened in 1980.

    The time for a boycott is not now: I would suggest that with its record, Beijing should never have been given the event in the first place.

    The only analogue I could imagine would be if you, after years of work and service, were to be offered an ambassadorship to the UN. And then, that the opportunity was taken away from you because the government wished to make a point against America.

    One that they were not prepared to back up with any other means of protest or action.

  26. I’m surprised that even in a msn poll (which I would never trust as an accurate indication of much) that almost half the people are for a boycott.

    I’m inclined to agree that since China is now our biggest trading partner, not turning up to a sporting event won’t do much except maybe embarrass the Chinese government and annoy a lot of athletes and sporting fans. If the governemnt or people are serious about it, do something serious.

    I imagine I’ll watch most of the Olympics anyway, despite them being in a country that has a pretty dismal human rights record.

  27. AT:

    Yes, you’re right. It would have been better if Beijing had never been given the Olympic Games in the first place.

  28. That’s right, AT, no argument there.

    But perhaps they could kick up a bit more of a fuss in the future about where they DON’T want to go.

    Muzz:

    I think it is sad that our biggest trading partner is an abusive communist country. We should do something to change that.

    Heaven help us if China becomes our World Sector Leader as well.

  29. Perhaps if everyone stopped buying plasma TVs, mobile phones, cheap plastic items, and cheap clothing made in China, we might make a point.

    Not that I think this is likely to happen. Too many of us enjoy our consumer lifestyles.

  30. I think the past experience of boycotting the games in Russia is a good example of the hyocrisy of governments.As I said on another post,the sticker on my car said it all,”Malcolm
    s wool keeps the Russians warm”.China should not have been given the Games in the 1st place,but then should the US have had them while they’re busy interfering with or overthrowing some Latin American country. Or Britain after the shameful act of Diego Garcia?Or the invasion of a sovereign country on a lie,Iraq, killing over 1 million people,displacing another 4 million and destroying the country – it’s a shambles!For what? OIL!Even Bush’s ‘cute’ name for the invasion,Operation Iraqi Liberation=OIL! We’re responsible for that horror!We’re still there helping oppress innocent people!Yes, Andrew,people have been thrown to the ground, arrested, handcuffed & taken off to the cells just because(he)wanted to cross the road for a sandwich-all this in front of his child!
    We’ve been involved in the horror of Abu Graib,Guantanamo Bay and other prisons in Iraq! US practice of rendition, picking up innocent people off the streets in Canada or Italy & sending them to torture chambers in Egypt or Europe!If we don’t speak out against these things we ARE complicit in them!
    There’s still people in detention centres;we’ve still allowed black deaths in custody.Of course there’s the genocide of Palestinians by Isreal!Remember the $300 mill to Saddam Hussein?

    I totally reject that if our ‘mates’ do it,it’s OK but we’ll kick up a stink about those others-‘terrorists’ or ‘oppressors’. I agree with Marilyn!Let’s clean up our own act in relation to the disgusting neglect, based on racist ideals towards indigenous people. This is a rich country,there’s no excuse for this after 200 yrs!
    Locking people up in detention centres until they go medically mad, or sending them back to be murdered or detained is reprehensible behaviour. Tidy up our own act first!Hypocrisy!

  31. The whole Olympic movemrnt shouid be disconinued as no one is able to hold them without incurirng the wrath of someone else, We should simply stop anything that might afford anyone in the world any joy or hope and simply complain ad nauseum.

  32. If the Olympics were a standard sporting event, I don’t there would be anywhere naar as much fuss. But the Olympics are supposed to idealise not just the human spirit of athletic endeavour, but also the fellowship of humanity.

    And because the countries that host it have never, nor will ever – be the epitome of justice and freedom for everyone, it will always be criticised.

    That doesn’t mean we should stop criticising nations for not upholding human rights, but I think we should also be equally realistic about what nations are trying to do. This I think is a crucial difference between Sydney and Beijing.

    I don’t think there is much disagreement that China has deliberately supressed human rights on a wholesale basis. And while I disagree with many things our government has done, only the most radicals would argue that the Australian goverment actively tries to suppress human rights except in a very small number of cases.

  33. Of course we should attend the Olympics..so that the spotlight of the world is focussed on China…would we even be having this debate if China was’t hosting the event?
    Let’s be clear, it’s not Chinese people we democrats have a gripe with…it’s the long suffering Chinese. Yes, there’s the racial discrimination against the Tibetans (6000 monasteries destroyed since the 1949 invasion), but don’t forget the religious discrimination against the Christians, the Buddhists, the Muslims, the Falun Gong, the crack down on dissent, the lack of free press, restricted internet, exploitation of workers, destruction of people’s habitat, no free judiciary etc etc.
    And what about China’s foreign policy? Support for the brutal Stalinist North Korea, exploitation of Africa and support for oppressive dictatorships (Zimbabwe/ Sudan), shoring up the disgusting Burma regime.
    How anyone can compare the brutal one party dictatorship with the US beggars belief. I’m no fan of George W Bush but the fact is there a free press, an independent judiciary and opposition to his policies in his own party and in other parties. To my knowledge he hasn’t executed demonstrating US citizens in Washington DC, imposed martial law, closed down the internet, closed the press and annexed a neighbouring country, destroyed its religious institutions etc etc.
    Let’s go to China…let’s make them keep to their promise or at least make them squirm and maybe, maybe one day our Chinese brother s will throw off the oppressive one party dictatorship and enjoy the same priviledges which allows us to speak so freely without the fear of a knock on the door…the very fate of Hu Jai imprisoned this month for daring to speak out for human rights.

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