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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."

Beijing: 1936 all over again

August 8, 2008

THE power of the massed international media proved too great for
China's leaders in the clash over Olympic internet access but the
victory will be short-lived and meaningless unless global pressure on
the totalitarian leadership is maintained throughout the Olympics and beyond.
The Geelong Advertiser (Australia)
August 5, 2008

Permitting thousands of international journalists to log-on to some
media websites such as the BBC and a few human rights organisations,
including Amnesty International, is not the same as permitting the
Chinese people to speak freely, to read what they wish, when they
wish, to read uncensored international websites or to discuss human
rights issues without fear of arrest.

Whether the historically-corrupt International Olympic Organisation
was party to the Chinese crackdown on the internet as part of a
secret deal is immaterial. The argument for giving China the 2008
Olympics was, in part, to reward the Chinese government for loosening
its ties on its own citizens.

This clearly has not occurred and while the fly-in, fly-out members
of the international media can celebrate their temporary success as
freedom fighters, ordinary Chinese will wonder what all the fuss is
about. It should not have come as any surprise China did attempt to
curb press freedom as the foreign press descended upon Beijing, even
though Chinese officials had given unambiguous, non-negotiable and
concrete assurances an open door policy would apply through the
Olympics, with unfettered internet access.

China is well practised at making promises it does not intend to
keep. It is a time-honoured Chinese tradition to tell foreigners
whatever they wish to hear and to keep doing otherwise. The Han
Chinese culture revolves around the notion of cultural and racial
superiority and these Olympics are designed in large part to
reinforce that view across China. This is just one of the
similarities between the Olympics being held in today's China and the
Olympics held in Hitler's Germany in 1936.

While China's President Hu Jintao asked the international press not
to politicise the Games, it must be remembered China's pledges to
recognise civil rights were implicit factors in the nation being
given he right to host the Olympics.
Unfortunately, there is nothing to suggest China has attempted to
address those issues positively since winning the Games. China is
now, however, learning how to work the media to its advantage, unlike
its client states Burma, Sudan and Zimbabwe. The Chinese positively
welcomed media attention in the wake of earthquakes, even though
locals who protested their children had been put at risk through
corrupt building practices were rapidly sidelined.

The contrast with the response of the Burmese junta was deliberate
and remarkable and won the Chinese leadership praise, even if it
meant little to those actually affected by the earthquake carnage.
Such sweeping public relations gestures, however, effectively sweep
human rights off the agenda.
China's role in supplying rogue African nations with the weapons to
murder and repress their citizens, China's own refusal to enter into
the long-promised dialogue over the future of Tibet, have been
shunted aside in the Games hype.

Fittingly, the Torch, which the IOC has taken to its bosom, was a
Nazi contribution to the Olympics. While China's politics should not
be permitted to detract from the extraordinary achievements of the
athletes who will compete in Beijing, the courage of the Chinese
persecuted for attempting to bring freedom to their own society
should also be remembered.
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