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Olympic Realities
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. 4/16/08

Beijing won the right to host this year’s Olympic Games in August, even though the smog and pollution there pose a health hazard. The Peoples Republic of China, the world’s largest Communist dictatorship, fought fiercely to win the intense competition for this honor, hoping to showcase the nation’s rapid ascent from a developing nation barely able to feed its immense population to an economic giant barely able to feed its immense population. They spent heavily in beautifying the polluted capitol and temporarily shutting down polluting factories.

China’s ruling elders may not have foreseen all the risks in becoming the focus of so much world attention but they are certainly aware of them now. For all of China’s economic progress, it has a very seamy side that can’t be hidden from world view no matter how much they spent on preparations, hype and propaganda.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

China’s economic miracle may have transformed the showcase cities somewhat, but much of its population still lives in poverty. Freedom of speech is virtually unknown and dissent is cruelly and violently suppressed. Journalists and others are still arrested for criticizing the government or its policies. China’s leaders are paranoid when it comes to criticism and when it comes from a foreign source, they furiously decry meddling in China’s internal affairs.

Since annexing Tibet in the 1950s, they sought to destroy that country’s unique and peaceful culture, laying waste to religious sites, repopulating the country with Chinese and driving the Dalai Lama, whom they brand a separatist, into exile. Although Taiwan, to cite another example, has never been a part of the Peoples Republic (it was ceded to Japan over a century ago), or ruled by a Communist government, China insists that it is, and must remain, a part of China. Any talk of independence brings threats of military retaliation. Other nations are warned against maintaining or re-establishing diplomatic recognition. Shamefully, we stood by with most of the rest of the accommodating world while Taiwan, then known as the Republic of China, had its UN seat taken away and awarded to the Peoples Republic under the “One China” concept.

China’s record on human rights is appalling. It supports murderous regimes like North Korea, Sudan and Iran and actively courts anti-American regimes like Venezuela. China has acted exclusively in it own selfish economic interests regardless of the impact on people, the environment or the cost in human lives. Darfur provides all the example that is needed, though there are others.

This record, not surprisingly, leaves China open to criticism, notwithstanding the countless excuses offered to rationalize its behavior. How could China’s leaders have expected otherwise? Did they really expect the world to remain politely quiet and stand in reverent awe while China strutted on the world stage? Too many people are rightly upset over repression in Tibet and China’s support of a regime responsible for unspeakable atrocities in Darfur. And so they reacted during the torch relays in Paris, London, San Francisco and elsewhere, to the acute embarrassment of the Peoples Republic.

But China can’t handle criticism. They branded the demonstrators outlaws and enemies of China. No sensible person, however, wants to be an enemy of the world’s most populous nation and next superpower, least of all Americans with their ravenous appetite for inexpensive Chinese imports. But people have a right, indeed an obligation, to speak out for oppressed people and against their oppressors. That’s the way it is in the free world and, somehow, China has to learn this lesson before it can take its place as one of the world’s great nations as it was in ancient times.  

Political or international disputes are not supposed to get in the way of the Olympics. The athletes have worked too hard and deserve their moment in the spotlight. Hopefully, the games themselves will be free from protests and violence. Fortunately, the Chinese hosts are quite good at suppressing demonstrations. But in the pomp and ceremony leading up to the greatly-hyped opening ceremonies at Beijing, expect more reminders that that Chinese behavior has not escaped world outrage and they should not expect a free pass on this. China’s leaders have only brought it on themselves. Behavior so inimical to human rights cannot be ignored in the hope that it will somehow self-correct.

Many western leaders are boycotting the opening ceremonies while still supporting the games. President Bush would be well-advised to follow suit, even though China is funding most of his government’s deficit spending. CRO

copyright 2008 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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