For Immediate Release
Canada Tibet Committee releases letter to Canadian athletes
(Montreal, Monday, 4 August 2008) – The Canada Tibet Committee today released a letter that it has sent individually to members of Canada’s Olympic Team in advance of the Beijing Games.
“Canadian athletes who choose to do so have a unique opportunity while in Beijing to promote Canadian values in a positive and constructive manner,” said CTC Executive Director Dermod Travis today. “Whether they do this through personal contact with Chinese fans or through a bolder manner is up to each athlete while fully respecting IOC regulations.”
The letter is reprinted below:
“May I extend to you, on behalf of the Canada Tibet Committee, our congratulations for having earned a spot on Canada’s 2008 Olympic team. We know that you will do Canada proud.
As you are aware, there has been some controversy surrounding the IOC’s decision to award the Olympic Games to Beijing. The issue of Tibet has been at the forefront of this debate. We want you to know that our Committee has never called for an athlete boycott of the Games. In fact, not a single Tibet organization anywhere in the world has called for a boycott.
You’ve worked hard for this chance, harder than most people can ever imagine and you deserve to compete. The Chinese people also deserve to celebrate this momentous occasion freely. But there is no escaping the fact that the Beijing Games may represent a turning point in China’s political development.
I want to underline that the differences the Canada Tibet Committee has are with the policies of the Chinese government and not with the Chinese people. This distinction is important. Many Chinese seek the same rights and freedoms for their country that we have in Canada. And sadly some Chinese reformers are imprisoned for it.
Recently, Canadian gold medallist Kyle Shewfelt on his blog criticized Prime Minister Harper for his decision not to attend the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games. We support Prime Minister Harper’s decision, but we also commend Kyle for his courage and right to dissent.
It’s important for you to know that if Kyle were a Chinese citizen criticizing the President of China in the same manner, he would risk imprisonment.
In 2003, prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, former Canadian Olympian and NBA player Steve Nash wore a T-Shirt at the NBA All-Star Weekend that read "No War. Shoot for Peace."
According to Steve, the reaction was “unbelievably” positive compared to negative. At the time he was quoted as saying: "I'm not embarrassed by America. I'm embarrassed by humanity. More than embarrassed, I think it's really unfortunate in the year 2003 that we're still using violence as a means of conflict resolution. That's what I'm speaking out against."
These rights – enjoyed by Kyle and Steve – to speak out and speak up are the rights that we hope will soon be enjoyed by all Chinese citizens, regardless of their ethnic origin.
We know that this may not be your battle. You’ve worked most of your life for this Olympic opportunity. But you also have a chance to plant a very important seed in Beijing. You can help advance the cause of freedom for over one billion people.
There are many things that you can do to support human rights in China while you’re representing Canada at the Olympic Games. First and foremost, of course, is to come home with the Gold. But you can also talk to a Chinese citizen about Canadian values, about what it’s like to live in Canada. Nothing more, nothing less. Just engage with ordinary fans. Some times the simplest acts travel the furthest.
But if you want to take a stronger stand at the games, we're ready to help you take your message further to promote human rights in an appropriate and respectful manner. Visit our website www.tibet.ca for more background information and contact us for details about our Olympics campaign.”
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