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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Olympic Torch Song

April 11, 2008

The Wall Street Journal - Editorial
April 10, 2008; Page A14

The Olympic torch relay reached San Francisco yesterday, where it
received the same welcome it had met in London and Paris days earlier –
throngs of demonstrators lining up along the relay route, protesting
China's human-rights record in Tibet. So it goes in the lead-up to the
Beijing Olympics in August. And this is only April.

Meanwhile, also yesterday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown became
the latest European leader to say he would not attend the opening
ceremony. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already announced she's
staying home, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy has indicated that
he, too, will keep away if Beijing doesn't open talks with the Dalai
Lama pronto. In short, the Olympics are shaping up to be a major
embarrassment for Beijing.

All this was entirely predictable on the day in 2001 when the
International Olympic Committee voted to award the 2008 Summer Games to
Beijing. As with Tokyo in 1964 and Seoul in 1988, the Beijing Olympics
represent a kind of a coming-out party for China, a chance for the
rising Asian power to showcase its economic and political development.
There is much for the world to admire and for the Chinese people to be
proud of.

But as the crackdown in Tibet demonstrates, China still has far to go to
meet developed-world standards in the way it treats its own people. Nor
is it a responsible player on the world stage, as seen by its support of
murderous regimes in Sudan and Burma.

Human-rights activists are seizing the media moment to point all this
out. They rightly see the Olympics as an opportunity to draw
international attention to their causes: Tibet, Darfur, Falun Gong,
North Korean refugees, oppressed Christians, imprisoned journalists, and
more. In San Francisco yesterday, Save Darfur demonstrators vied for
space with Free Tibet supporters.

Beijing's oppression of the Tibetan people is indeed abhorrent. Freedoms
of religion, speech and assembly do not exist. Most Tibetans live in
poverty, excluded from the economic gains seen by the Han Chinese
settlers dispatched by Beijing to Tibetan areas for the purpose of
diluting local culture. Since China's annexation of Tibet in 1950,
countless Tibetans have been killed and hundreds of religious sites

Throughout these years of misery, China's leaders have refused to talk
to the one man who might make a difference, the Dalai Lama. The
religious leader eschews violence and, since the 1970s, has advocated
autonomy, not independence, for his homeland. Beijing responds to his
peaceful entreaties by degrading his status and calling him a
"splittist." He has lived in exile in India since 1959.

After more than half a century of hearing only one side of Tibet's
story, most Chinese believe Beijing's version and are insulted by the
West's efforts on behalf of Tibetan rights. The torch protests encourage
this line of thinking. They allow Beijing to brand the West as
"anti-China" and play its nationalism card.

Even in San Francisco, which was chosen as the Olympic torch's only stop
in North America in part because of its large Asian population, many
Chinese-Americans are angered by the protests. Police yesterday worked
to keep protestors waving the red, blue and yellow banner of Tibet
separate from those carrying the red flag of China.

This is one reason the European boycott of the opening ceremony is
destined to fail. Call it the ultimate European diplomatic stunt: an
opportunity to express moral outrage about a problem while contributing
nothing to its solution. The boycott could do more harm than good,
enraging the Chinese people and playing into the hands of the Communist
Party leadership. Hillary Clinton and some members of Congress are
pressing President Bush to join the European boycott.

The White House said yesterday that there was "no change" in President
Bush's plan to attend the Beijing Olympics – though it pointedly noted
that he had never said he would attend the opening ceremony. The
President himself renewed his call for China's leaders to open dialogue
with the Dalai Lama. If China's leaders were to reach out to the exile,
he said, "they'd find him to be a really fine man, a peaceful man."

No world leader, by the way, has more moral authority on the subject of
human rights in Tibet than Mr. Bush. The President has invited the Dalai
Lama to the White House, and in a moving ceremony on Capitol Hill last
year personally presented him with Congress's highest civilian honor.

Mr. Bush could do more to further human rights in Tibet by attending the
Olympics and, while there, speaking out on the plight of the Tibetan
people. Such a statement, even if censored by the state media, would
make its way to the Chinese people, who would understand by the fact of
his presence that the U.S. President is not "anti-China."

There's an opportunity here for China too. If it is finally prepared to
seek a lasting peace in Tibet, it could invite the Dalai Lama to attend
the opening ceremony in Beijing on August 8 – escorted by Mr. Bush.
There would be no better way to showcase China's progress.
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