Saturday, August 02, 2008

Olympics Ideals appear as tenuous as China

It will not be long before 433 Australian athletes make there way to China for the 2008 Olympic Games. With this in mind, Victorian Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield recently outlined his hopes not merely for the athletes but for the Chinese peoples.

“In recent days, Australian athletes have been leaving our shores to compete at the Beijing Olympics. They will have a tough slog ahead of them, striving against world-class athletes in world-class facilities, but also battling the danger of pollution and unexpected sporting hazards … They will also have to ask themselves some deep questions about the nature of the host of the games, the Communist party of China."

Senator Fifield also cites some of the internal population divisions within China, and the challenges these bring to the communist regime, he concludes:

“But I hope that the Chinese people will be able to take something extra from the games – I hope they have a chance to met and talk with some of their guests and learn something about freedom and about democracy - about those things that the Chinese Government does not allow. Such an achievement would be worth its weight in medals.”

I outlined my own reservations about China and the games back in May at the American Interests site through an initiative organized by the group in association with Amnesty international. Attention was paid to China’s poor human rights record in the lead up to the games particularly in relation to the agreement with had with the IOC.

Irrespective of race, nationality, or membership of any particular social or political group, all humans are entitled to basic legal and moral rights as recognized by international laws. When the IOC awarded China the 2008 Olympics, it did so on the condition that it seeks to improve its Human Rights record. What gave the IOC the belief that the Chinese would change is beyond comprehension. China has a pitiful record and the IOC’s decision acts to reinforce and condone this highly negative conduct. I guess the IOC was never one to possess great foresight as it did award the games to Berlin in ’36. Nor has the sports body any regard for perpetuating the virtues of civilized nationhood. It was sympathetic to communism by awarding the 1980 games to the then Soviet Union.

As reported widely, China promised to improve their Human Rights record well advance of the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics. Since then we have seen a recent and violent crackdown of peaceful dissension in Tibet and other human rights activists and there has been little if any change to policy with respect to previously documented abuses; a mistreatment that remains systematic and widespread. Any dissenting opinions are promptly suppressed, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of prisoners, severe restrictions on freedom of expression and association and violations specific to women, continues unabated. Government and political control over its legal systems ensures a continued lack of accountability consequently, abuses go unchecked. According to Amnesty, China currently holds the record for the largest number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents. One of the most prominent stories includes journalist Shi Tao, who is serving a 10-year sentence in a Chinese prison for sending an email!

Moreover, if the IOC had teeth the Chinese would not have gone back on there promise to “allow free internet access to journalists covering the Beijing Olympics.”

Writes Jack the Insider in the Australian:

“The Chinese Government, which sponsors virtually every ugly regime in the world from Umar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir’s Sudan, to Kim Jong-il’s PDRK, has discovered that conning a bunch of bloated jet-setters with swollen senses of self-entitlement is a walk in the park. And so journos have turned up in Beijing to discover their emails aren’t getting through and bourgeois enemies of the state like the BBC and Germany’s national broadcaster, Deutsche Welle, have been put on the banned list. Other dangerous counter revolutionary websites like the Hong Kong-based Apple Daily and Liberty Time from Taiwan have been dispatched to the ether." Read the whole article here

So much for the guarantees given to the IOC about human rights back when the 2008 games were awarded. Where is the condemnation from sports bodies and the International Olympic Committee now that they are regressing on the agreement? Typical is not it, the deafening silence...

I find it perplexing that the following sentence graces the page of the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic home page:

“The Games have always brought people together in peace to respect universal moral principles.”

If the IOC were sincere about this, it would not have awarded the 2008 Olympics to Beijing. I call on the Chinese authorities to make good on their promises and uphold the legacy of the Games.

Contact Senator Mitch Fifield - Senator for Victoria

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