Apart from a few blogs I’ve seen around, it seems I may be one of the very few people boycotting this years olympic games. Considering around 4 billion people were estimated to watch the opening ceremony, and the other 2 billion of the worlds population probably don’t have tvs, it seems I’m cutting a very lonely figure! Boycotts are pretty blunt tools, and I very much doubt they ever achieve solid results, but thats not what its about for me… I’d feel weird watching the games knowing the people who have been displaced for those lovely new stadiums to be thrown up, the increased spy network set in place by the Communist party (literal spys and the high tech kind), crack downs in Tibet and Muslim regions and general nationalistic rhetoric claiming stability & order must be maintained in the lead up and during the games for the good of the nation.
Now, I’m completely aware that other nations, especially those who regularly criticise the Chinese government don’t have spotless human rights records. Guantanamo Bay in the US and the UK policy of internment as well as its part in CIA rendition flights are only a couple of the many examples. Thats all known, but it doesn’t mean that I’m going to let China off the hook and overlook what are gross violations to human rights at home and in regions such as Tibet. At a very basic level, I at least have the right as a UK citizen to sit here and blog aware to my hearts conent about how awful my government is and I wont get chucked in jail (yet… but that’s mainly because no ones reading). There are ever increasing limits on the right of assembly and protest in the UK, as witnessed on the weekend when environmentalist/anarchist groups set up a camp near one of the proposed new coal fired stations and were continuously stopped, searched, held and intimidated by the police… because they were protesting peacefully. Now if a fella in China wants to blog about how awful that is, he’s free to do so, as he’d be right to!
As Amnesty points out;
“By continuing to persecute and punish those who speak out for human rights, the Chinese authorities have lost sight of the promises they made when they were granted the Games seven years ago,” said Roseann Rife, Asia-Pacific Deputy Director at Amnesty International… Housing rights activist Ye Guozhu continues to serve his four-year sentence for “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble” because of his opposition to the seizure and demolition of property to make way for new construction projects for next month’s Olympic Games Ye Guozhu’s prison sentence was due to expire on 26 July. Instead the Chinese authorities say, he will remain imprisoned until at least 1 October, after the end of the 2008 Olympic Games.”
That second section concerning the housing rights activist is an example of how the Olympic Games is directly impacting political activists during the games (and beforehand considering Ye Guozhu has been in prison for several years already). The Amnesty report goes on;
“In fact, the crackdown on human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers has intensified because Beijing is hosting the Olympics. The authorities have stepped up repression of dissident voices in their efforts to present an image of “stability” and “harmony” to the outside world. This has resulted in the detention and imprisonment of those who wish to draw attention to the other side of the picture, which includes human rights violations perpetrated in preparation for the Games”
That I’d say is a fair summary as to why I wont be watching any of the Olympic games… its being used as a tool by the government to defend its own interests and concentrate its power even further. I understand it would be tough for a competitor to not go to the games, as its the pinaccle of their career and such a rare opportunity, but I don’t have to watch it, so wont.
Punitive forms of punishment have also been reintroduced as outlined by Amnesty;
“Far from acting as a catalyst for reform, the authorities have used Beijing’s hosting of the Olympics as a pretext for extending the use of punitive administrative detention, notably ”Re-education through Labour” (RTL) and “Enforced Drug Rehabilitation” (EDR). The police have specifically targeted petitioners and rights activists in their efforts to “clean up” Beijing ahead of the Games. Overseas Falun Gong organizations have also reported an increase in detentions of Falun Gong practitioners in the run-up to the Olympics. Over the last year in particular, the arbitrary detention and forced removal of thousands of petitioners has resembled the previous use of “Custody and Repatriation”, another abusive system of detention which was abolished in 2003 in a move officially heralded as a significant step forward for human rights.”
The rest of the report as well as more examples of specific cases can be read online here.
Other examples of pre Olympic crackdowns can be found all over the place including reuters, The Guardian, The Times (this one is especially interesting as it reveals government papers pointing to a crackdown in Tibet including ‘re-education’, how wonderfully Orwellian!) and this vid on odeo.com. There are obviously hundreds of other examples, but these are all pretty recent and quite interesting.
So when you’re next enjoying the appalling sports the Olympics have to offer… raise a glass to those NGO workers, AIDS campaigners, housing activists and Tibetens who wont have see the sparkly opening ceremony.