The United States, along with European sports ministers, have ruled out a boycott of the Beijing Olympics this summer over China’s crackdown on Tibetan protesters. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged China to “engage” with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists and the head of Tibet’s government in exile. (The Wall Street Journal) Sponsors of the Games—including McDonald’s and Coca-Cola—are trying to stay out of politics. Some are trying to quietly mollify activists calling for international pressure for China to change its policies in Tibet and Darfur, but any public statements risk angering Beijing. (AP in Newsweek)
What the commentators said
The only responsible thing to do is to boycott this “hideous event,” said Kate Heartfield of Canada’s Canwest News Service in The Vancouver Sun. Giving China the opportunity to host the Games was supposed to be a carrot to get Beijing to improve its appalling human rights record; instead, it jails activists for just opening their mouths in criticism of the government. “There ought to be a rule: The Olympic Games should not be held in any country without the consent of its people—or where its people are actively prevented from even giving their opinions.”
“Sorry, but the time for deciding whether China deserved to stage the Olympics passed when Beijing was awarded the 2008 Games,” said Shelly Anderson in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pressuring China to stop the “atrocities” in Tibet and elsewhere is, of course, a moral duty for the U.S. and other governments. “But striking out at China by undermining the Olympics” would merely “punish the athletes, coaches and fans,” and might “make things worse” inside China “if embarrassed leaders lash out or abandon the notion of trying to look good for the rest of the world.”
Chinese leaders probably already wish the Olympics would just go away, said Andrew Leonard in Salon. China has “spared no expense” preparing for the Games, which were supposed to be a “coming-of-age party” where it showcased its progress and “first-class power” to outsiders. But “when you open your doors to the world but will not dare allow a peep of criticism—how can it not be a debacle?”
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