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Calls Grow for Beijing Olympic Boycott

March 17, 2008 – There is a growing movement worldwide calling for a boycott of this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing, China from Aug. 8-24. China’s brutal repression of dissent in Tibet is getting increasing media attention. This weekend, Tibet’s capital city of Lhasa was “shut down” as some 200 military vehicles carrying up to 60 Chinese soldiers each patrolled the city. An estimated 80 people were killed in clashes.

Tibet, previously an independent theocracy, was occupied by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in 1951. In 1959, Tibet’s spiritual and political leader, the Dalai Lama, fled Tibet for India with help from the CIA. Since 1951, it is estimated that one-million Tibetans have been killed by Chinese authorities and the six-million remaining Tibetans have become a minority in their own land according to Wikipedia. The Dalai Lama describes the present situation in Tibet as “cultural genocide.”

The Canada Tibet Committee and the International Tibet Support Network are pressuring Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic (IOC), to publicly condemn the repression in Tibet reports Vancouver’s Georgia Straight. These groups are also trying to block the Olympic torch from traveling through Tibet on its way to Beijing. The torch is expected to travel over Mt. Everest, the world’s highest mountain, in May on its way to Beijing. The government of Nepal, which shares Mt. Everest with Tibet, promised to close the mountain to prevent protests against the Beijing Olympics.

The French-based Reporters without Borders (RWB) is another groups spearheading a boycott of the Beijing Olympics based on human rights abuses in China. RWB is also pressuring Jacques Rogge. A letter to Rogge, written by RWB, states that “world opinion is puzzled by the IOC’s silence about the human rights situation in China. The 2008 Summer Olympics are due to start in Beijing but the Chinese government, despite its explicit promises, refuses to make improvements in basic rights and freedom.”

Steven Spielberg recently quit as artistic director for the opening and closing ceremonies at the Beijing Games, protesting against Chinese political support for Sudan. Many people interpret his resignation also as a protest against repression in Tibet. Last week, several hundred Tibetan activists marched in New York City, calling for a boycott of the Olympics.

Jacques Rogge told the media this weekend that he “is very concerned” about the situation in Tibet, but he declined to condemn Chinese actions there and flatly refused calls for a boycott. Meanwhile Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested that a boycott might backfire, exacerbating things in China as reported by the Times of India. Her conservative government also expressed concern for the human rights situation in Tibet. Pedal is unaware of any Canadian government or sports authorities taking position on the matter.

For more on this story Rogge statementCPAFPReporters without Borders.

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