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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Open Letter to Jacques Rogge, President IOC

July 02, 2008

To: Jacques Rogge, President
cc: IOC Executive Board, IOC members

President,

We welcome the International Olympic Committee’s statement to BOCOG following China’s flagrant manipulation of the Olympic Torch Relay when it was carried through Lhasa on June 21st. We are gratified to see the IOC acknowledge the highly political nature of the speeches made by Chinese political leaders Zhang Qingli ("Tibet's sky will never change and the red flag with five stars will forever flutter high above it ... we will certainly be able to totally smash the splittist schemes of the Dalai Lama clique") and Qin Yizhi ("Encouraged by the Olympic spirit of 'Faster, Higher, Stronger', Lhasa people of all nationalities will . . . resolutely smash the Dalai clique's scheme to destabilise Tibet, sabotage the Olympics and split the motherland").

The militarised and nationalistic manner in which the Olympic torch was relayed through Lhasa undermines the Olympic ideals and exposes the Olympic Movement to ridicule. Reports indicate that most Lhasa residents were not even permitted to see the torch relay or even look out their windows while the relay was taking place. Military and paramilitary troops lined the streets. Journalists – who are still being denied free access to Tibetan areas in violation of China’s promise to the IOC - reported a palpable “climate of fear” among Tibetans.

As you know, Tibet organizations around the world have been deeply concerned about the Chinese government’s use of the Olympics for political purposes since the IOC chose to award the games to China in 2001. Unfortunately, the speeches by Zhang and Qin were simply an extension of the politicization the Chinese government has exhibited throughout the process in an effort to legitimize its claim to Tibet: using the Tibetan antelope as one of its Olympic mascots, creating an “ethnic minorities” theme park as part of its Olympics venue, carrying the Olympic torch up Tibet’s Chomolungma (Mount Everest), and featuring Tibetan cultural performances in major Olympic ceremonies. Sadly, the incident was entirely predictable and we regret that the IOC refused to act to prevent it.

With such a precedent, and a denial of wrongdoing by BOCOG that indicates such displays may be repeated, how will you ensure that Chinese authorities do not again take advantage of the Olympics platform to strengthen their political grasp on Tibet? The IOC’s position on keeping “political propaganda” out of the Olympic village in Beijing has been made abundantly clear. Will you seek written assurance from BOCOG that political views on Tibet will not be expressed in any way during the Games?

Additionally, we continue to be gravely concerned that international journalists are not able to access Tibetan areas in accordance with the temporary media regulations that the IOC itself helped institute. Although journalists are now able to apply for permits to travel the “Tibet Autonomous Region,” movement for journalists both in the TAR and in Tibetan areas in the surrounding provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, Yunnan and Sichuan continues to be severely curtailed, making a mockery of claims that the Olympics have brought media freedom to China.

We look forward to receiving your reply.

Sincerely,
 
Canada Tibet Committee and International Tibet Support Network

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