Apr 14, 2008 10:31 am


There is something a bit pathetic about President Jacques Rogge public reminder to China that it promised to improve its human rights record when it was awarded the games.

How many times must autocrats disregard their promises before democratic appeasers stop believing them?

In any case, these olympic games have already been marred. Just look at these olympic"symbols:"

From Reporters Without Borders - petition to boycott opening ceremony.

When the International Olympic Committee assigned the 2008 summer Olympic Games to Beijing on 13 July 2001, the Chinese police were intensifying a crackdown on subversive elements, including Internet users and journalists. Six years later, nothing has changed. But despite the absence of any significant progress in free speech and human rights in China, the IOC’s members continue to turn a deaf ear to repeated appeals from international organisations that condemn the scale of the repression.

From the outset, Reporters Without Borders has been opposed to holding the Olympic Games to Beijing. Now, a year before the opening ceremony, it is clear the Chinese government still sees the media and Internet as strategic sectors that cannot be left to the “hostile forces” denounced by President Hu Jintao. The departments of propaganda and public security and the cyber-police, all conservative bastions, implement censorship with scrupulous care.

Around 30 journalists and 50 Internet users are currently detained in China. Some of them since the 1980s. The government blocks access to thousands for news websites. It jams the Chinese, Tibetan and Uyghur-language programmes of 10 international radio stations. After focusing on websites and chat forums, the authorities are now concentrating on blogs and video-sharing sites. China’s blog services incorporate all the filters that block keywords considered “subversive” by the censors. The law severely punishes “divulging state secrets,” “subversion” and “defamation” - charges that are regularly used to silence the most outspoken critics. Although the rules for foreign journalists have been relaxed, it is still impossible for the international media to employ Chinese journalists or to move about freely in Tibet and Xinjiang.

Cartoonist Signe Wilkinson whose daughter is spending her junior year abroad in Beijing said that her daughter while her daughter sympathizes with the hurt feeling of average Chinese as do I, she cannot ignore the fact that her television screen goes black whenever CNN reports on the olympics.

So, it is mildly encouraging that one by one democratic leaders are announcing their decision not to attend the opening ceremonies: Surprisingly, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, is in their early number. As is Germany's Angela Merkel (she remembers what it is like to live under Communist rule),Britain's Gordon Brown and Canada's Stephen Harper.

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