Should we boycott the Beijng Olympics?
I think it is time to revisit the call to boycott the Beijing Olympics.
Various groups and campaigns have called for public boycotts of the Beijing Olympics, because attending the Olympics would be seen as turning a blind eye to the Chinese Government's domestic human rights abuses, and its role in the human rights abuses of other regimes. Foremost amongst these have been those campaigning for human rights and freedom in Tibet.
Reporters Without borders has information on the campaign to boycott the Beijing Olympics.
Not long ago, I supported the boycott call as a way to highlight how the Burmese military dictatorship is supported by China – in terms of political support, international legitimacy and trade dollars – and to pressure the Chinese to drop their endorsement of the Burmese regime, thus allowing the Burmese democracy movement room to breath.
More recently came the news that Steven Spielberg, following the example of other Hollywood celebrities, had pulled out of his involvement in the Beijing Olympics because many argued that such involvement was seen as an endorsement of the Chinese government – which was unacceptable in light of the Chinese's continuing arms sales to the Sudanese government, and how those arms are used to oppress the people of Dafur, and other minorities in Southern Sudan.
Now, according to ABC Radio 774 AM this morning, Australian Senator Andrew Bartlett has called for an Australian boycott of the Beijing Olympics because of China's brutal crackdown of protesters in Tibet who are highlighting China's brutal treatment of Tibetans in their homeland.
Now, you can consider how realistic a boycott of the Olympic Games would be – considering Rudd's attitude towards China, it is not surprising that Australia has rejected the call for an official boycott of the Games. Nor can we expect enough pressure to mount in this short time for other countries to formally boycott the games. In these changed geo-politics, we won't see the tit-for-tat Cold War tactics that led to the official Moscow and Los Angeles Games boycotts.
Howevever, in light of the brutal crackdown on Tibetan rights protesters, we must not allow China to once again brush off insipid international criticism and the UN's glacial, byzantium manouverings of registering its 'concerns'.
The fact is, China will put on a multi-billion dollar pageant for the world in only a few months – in the guise of an international sporting competition – that will be a huge propaganda exercise to show a modern, stable, prosperous, peaceful – and unified – China. And we should not buy it. Literally.
In an age of consumer awareness and growing public consciousness, and the tools available to us, the possibilities of a consumer boycott of the Games are stronger. Don't go to Beijing for the Olympics, and if you, like me, can't afford to travel to China anyway to watch the Games, don't buy Olympics merchandise associated with the Beijing Olympics.
You can write lots of letters, emails and faxes to your Chinese embassy telling them this is how you feel and what you are doing, and write similar letters to your local papers, mention it on talk-back radio, and leave such comments on blogs and online forums (as long as they are relevant to the topic, of course – I wouldn't endorse off-topic comment spam!).
You can tell your friends and family – especially if you know of people who are inclined to buy the inevitable sports clothes, tracksuit pants, predictable panda bear mascot and other paraphernalia emblazoned with the Beijing Olympics branding that we know will be made cheaply in Chinese factories with poor working conditions – that you don't want any of this stuff for either yourself or your kids (if you are parents), and why you think they should join you in boycotting it.
It worked with delegitimising South Africa's Apartheid regime, and it can work with China.
Let's not let China's regime off the hook for its deplorable human rights record.
[The image is of Tibetan monks who were beaten by Chinese security forces during the recent brutal crackdown on protests, from the ABC]