World's sporting 'heroes'
help keep repression alive
WHAT do 1936, 1980 and 2008 have in common? These are years in which, to the world’s shame, brutal dictatorships (Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia and now Communist China) were allowed to host the Olympic Games.
The parrot cry of the appeasing International Olympic Committee is that sport has nothing to do with politics. Try telling that to repressive regimes to whom the games are a heaven-sent (yes, I’m aware of the irony) opportunity to pretend to the world that everything is hunky-dory and the human rights of millions (today, billions) are not being trampled on.
And, though I blame Olympic administrators far more than athletes, there is no escaping the fact that the very presence of hundreds of the world’s top sportsmen and women, as they scramble for their medals, is helping to keep the repression alive.
The IOC’s appeasement of China goes further - praising to the (polluted?) skies efforts to hack back on endemic pollution. Which doesn’t chime with what the BBC is finding on a daily basis in Beijing (see below). The Beijing authorities claim that the smog that hangs over the city most days is just harmless mist.
* Then there’s internet censorship, contrary to what journalists were promised.
* Then there is that sudden ban on any flags other than the Olympic nations’ main flags. This is to clamp down on free-Tibet protests (on the first day, Tibet protesters were grabbed and dragged off).
But it also meant that Wales’s Nichole Cooke, who won an early gold in a cycling event, was unable to drape herself in the Red Dragon, as medal-winning Welsh athletes have done in the past.
China’s vast economic might has led to schizophrenic attitudes. The United States, for example, ocasionally has a go at China for its poor human rights record, but then hands it “favoured nation” status and encourages American businesses to dive and trade, trade, trade.
Tiny Cuba meanwhile - yes, a bad human rights record, but nothing on the scale of China’s - has been the subject of a massive US trade embargo for many years.BBC monitoring finds filthy skies
The BBC has been monitoring the amounts of PM10 (tiny lung-penetrating particles) in the air in central Beijing every day in the run-up to the Olympics and plans to continue through the Games.
By the way, the World Health Organisation guideline maximum
is 50 micrograms per cubic metre (mcm), averaged over 24 hours.
BBC figures this month up to the opening ceremony:
Aug 1 - 19mcm
Aug 2 - 15
Aug 3 - 79
Aug 4 - 292
Aug 5 - 104
Aug 6 - 186
Aug 7 - 191
Aug 8 - 156
And these figures, mostly way over WHO safety levels, are despite China closing dozens of pollution-producing factories around Beijing just for the Olympics and removing thousands of vehicles from the city’s roads.
After the games, these factories will reopen and the vehicles will be back. I wonder what will the figures be like then?Spanish judge takes a tilt at repression
MEANWHILE, on the eve of the Olympics, a brave Spanish High Court judge, Santiago Pedraz, allowed several Tibetan organisations to file cases against Chinese bigwigs - two ministers, three political leaders and two generals - alleging crimes against humanity following the repression of the demonstrations led by Buddhist monks in Tibet in March.
The cases are being filed under remarkable legislation that allows Spain to have a go at injustice way beyond its borders.
You may recall Margaret Thatcher’s friend, Chile’s ex-dictator Pinochet, being arrested in London in 1998 on a Spanish warrant issued under the same legislation in respect of the brutal repression carried out by his regime.
This tilt at China may come to nothing (it’s difficult to imagine China allowing top officials to be prosecuted in Spain) but it does help to keep that nation’s dreadful repression in the spotlight. All power to his judicial elbow.
Labels: Beijing, China, Olympics, repression