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The world can buy into Beijing's visage of athleticism and openness but we'd be turning a blind eye to increased repression in China

August 11, 2008

The world can buy into Beijing's visage of athleticism and openness
but we'd be turning a blind eye to increased repression in China
By RICK BELL Columnist
The Calgary Sun (Canada)
August 9, 2008

Even the Olympics isn't big enough to hide the terrible truth.

And, unlike in China, you have a choice.

You don't have to buy their bull. You can go over the moon recalling
the artistry of the opening ceremonies, you can applaud the efforts
of the athletes all you want and, yes, marvel at the hospitality of
the ordinary Chinese.

But no mistake. Here, as opposed to China, autocratic China,
dictatorial China, one-party state China, the country of the
crackdown on everything the rulers dislike, you have a choice. You
don't have to buy their bull.

The government of the so-called People's Republic of China has not changed.

Yes, now they have nightclubs where the rich of the cities can party
and wear designer brands.

Yes, the rulers calling themselves communist are now about as
communist as a Bay Street broker, minus the snazzy suspenders.

But China is a dictatorship. There are no rights as we understand the
word. If you don't toe the line, you get smacked.

There is no room for independent ideas, politics is a crime. The
Olympics have brought more repression, the rounding up of dissenters,
the ongoing issue of the Internet being blocked and places like Tibet
still know all too well the boot of the Beijing authorities comes in
only one style: steel-toed and heavy tread.

China can host the Olympics and put on a propaganda show for all the
world to see, a monumental attempt to re-brand a regime standing
against everything we are supposed to support -- openness, tolerance,
freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of religion, freedom
of the press, democracy, human dignity.

Hope we haven't forgotten about such ideals.

Many of the world leaders play nice. Who wants to offend China? They
have money. They have the world's largest market, waiting for all
those moneymakers with no backbone willing to behave and smile
sweetly and look the other way or speak empty words.

Beijing promised openness at the Games. Did anyone actually believe
the Chinese government? Was anyone really surprised when the biggest
of the world's remaining Big Brother tyrants went back on its word
and put people under house arrest or tossed individuals off their
land or exiled opponents far from the capital or treated athletes and
other foreigners like their own strait-jacketed citizens or roughed
up anyone who chose to say something about anything not of the party line?

The only ones shocked are no doubt the descendants of the dimwits who
thought if Hitler signed a piece of paper he wouldn't go to war.

Then there's the old whine. Don't politicize the Olympics. Well, the
Olympics allowed themselves to be politicized when they consented to
be the vehicle for dictators to try and clean their political dirty laundry.

What does anybody expect, the oppressed to be silent about their
oppression? Not likely.

It is sad. There was a time, not so long ago, when we recognized
freedom fighters. Alas, that was before our collective moral compass
lost its direction.

Oh, the athletic performances are indeed what the program says the
Games are all about. But the Beijing agenda is to have you sit back
at the end of the day and say: Those despots aren't all that bad.
Look, they are so darn polite. Quite right, especially if you bend
the knee and kiss their butt.

This city has been particularly adept at puckering up when it comes
to China. They have coin. We have companies with oil to sell. Simple.

This city rolled over and whitehatted their dictators, snubbed
Chinese defenders of democracy and, just this year, one phone call to
the Alberta government from the Chinese consulate, that fortress on 6
Ave. and 9 St. S.W. with its fence topped in arrowhead spikes, and
then a call from the province to the city, led to both levels of
local government pulling away from any involvement with a visiting
dance troupe the Chinese didn't like.

They say jump, we ask how high.

The night before last, the very small Tibetan community in Calgary
holds a candlelight vigil in this city. About 130 stand in front of
the Chinese consulate. Inside the fortress, someone is taking
pictures of these people chanting and holding Tibet flags and posters
of Buddha, probably wondering how weak Canadians must be to allow such events.

Outside, the Tibetans and their supporters pray for the Beijing
bosses to one day act justly. They pray for those who have suffered
at the hands of the hands of a leadership no one ever elected.

Tashi Phuntsok is the soft-spoken president of Calgary's Tibetan community.

"Let them show what they want to show to the world," says Tashi, of the Games.

"But there are good, brave media and good, brave athletes who will
signal there's something very wrong."

We can hope.
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