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Olympics and New Cold War

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mehdi Khorramdel 

One year before the beginning of Olympics 2008, human rights organizations in Western countries started moves, which were not taken seriously at the beginning, to protest the human rights situation in China. They issued statements noting that since China was ignoring its human rights obligations, it did not deserve to host the Olympics. They mentioned extensive censorship of the international and rough treatment of bloggers as instances of human rights violations in China.

Although such positions were, at first, not taken seriously by Chinese officials, later consolidation of those organizations and their stances on human rights situation in China and backing from various European and American politicians, who used that current to impose their will on Chinese statesmen, turned the Olympics into a means of putting pressure on China, thus turning the event into a highly politically charged one. Afterwards, American advisors to Chinese Olympics officials suddenly withdrew from cooperating with the headquarters in charge of Olympics 2008 and renounced human rights policies of China.

However, Western countries continued to bring up other issues on the pretext of the Olympics to realize their long-term goals. Taiwan and Tibet, which have always been major points of difference between Chinese and American governments, came into focus once more. Big international media gave wide coverage to the situation in Taiwan and Tibet, charging Chinese authorities with human rights violations in the two regions.

Although Chinese officials, at first, tried to ignore the protests, when the Olympics torch was lighted on August 7 to start its 137,000-km journey, high-pitched protests raged on and this time, political heads of various countries were involved to prove that they would resort to any means, even sports events, to achieve their goals. The European Union’s position toward China was in line with that of the United States.

After Chinese officials announced that world leaders would attend inauguration ceremony of the Olympics, first German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that she would not attend the ceremony. Her announcement was echoed by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Other Western countries which enjoy relatively good ties with China took a more conservative approach and though they declined to give their final viewpoint on the issue, announced that they may not attend the ceremony.

US allies in Far East including Japan and South Korea also took tough stances and even Japan did not allow the Olympics torch to pass through its soil. In this way, the Japanese officials intended to play their role in helping their Western allies achieve their goals.

The first rally against the event was held in London, where the torch was going to pass and which is also to play host to summer Olympics of 2012 to prove that passage of the torch during the planned 130 days through 135 cities would not be easy. When the torch arrived in Paris, protests took a new turn and similar accidents occurred in San Francisco, Buenos Aires, Dar al-Salaam and New Delhi. Similar protests were also expected in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Canberra, and Seoul.

In the meantime, Dalai Lama, leader of Tibetan separatists who has been in exile in India for about 50 years while China accused him of instigating deadly violence in Tibet launched a 13-day tour of the United States to enhance negative propaganda against China. Chinese officials, in return, charged him with leading Tibet Youth Congress, which is considered by them a terrorist organization. On the other hand, the European Union issued a statement calling on all European heads of state to boycott inaugural ceremony if the Chinese government refused to change its approach to human rights.

The International Olympic Committee and its president, which was faced with unprecedented international and media pressures, took a cunning step and declared a statement calling on all countries to respect freedom of speech and respect for other states and asked for Olympics to be treated in a non-political manner. In this way, he intended to both relieve pressures on Beijing while indirectly supporting protestors.

Despite all those protests, the main question is "aren’t there other instances in which other countries have been treated in the same way that China treats Tibet or Taiwan?"
There is no doubt that in addition to China, human rights breaches are also rife in Western countries.

Rough treatment of demonstrations in France, violent treatment of the American blacks and criminal acts at Guantanamo Bay prison as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan and suppression of protests in South Korea are blatant cases of human rights breaches which are easily ignored by the so-called advocates of human rights.

In reality, such behavior will cause the Olympic Games to become an arena for a new Cold War and international disputes, thus losing its sporting nature. Due to widespread international protests, even the International Olympic Committee has not been able to cope with them and has taken a passive position. Therefore, such disputes would pave the way for a return of past conditions in international relations and the boycott of inaugural ceremony may be generalized to other affairs.

In conclusion, the sole result of such protests is that China would not heed their protests due to its policy of not giving concessions to opponents. Perhaps the main outcome of such protests is the damage done to the main spirit of the Games which is to foster friendship and cooperation among nations.

Source: http://www.tabnak.ir/

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