04/10/2008, 00.00
CHINA – TIBET
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Repression touches the whole of China, not Tibet only

by Bernardo Cervellera
What is happening in Lhasa is the consequence of the denial of fundamental human rights. We must demand freedom for pro-democracy dissidents and religious believers, people like three bishops who disappeared in police custody years ago.

The Olympic torch’s “harmonious journey” has turned into a ridiculous farce. Anti-China demonstrations are happening along the relay’s path in a parody worthy of a movie by the Keystone Cops. Still this is having positive repercussions; at long last, the fate of the Tibetan people, subjected for 50 years to a cultural and religious genocide, has become a central concern for world public opinion.

Only a few months ago in a visit to Italy the Dalai Lama was given the cold shoulder by Italian politicians who treated him as if he were some kind of leper, welcomed almost in secret by some lawmakers (but not by the speakers of Italy’s House of Deputies and Senate). Now everyone is openly talking about the possibility of boycotting the Olympic Games because of the violence by Chinese soldiers against Tibetan monks.

Actually, Italian (and European) politicians are only talking about boycotting the Opening Ceremony, not the Games as a whole. Like International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, they are decrying how this secular religion of body and power is turning into a political tool, too saddened by the possibility that the athletes may not get their moment of glory after years of training.

It might also be that such concern hides fears that the Games could be deserted by visitors, embarrassing not only the athletes but also the many international companies that bet heavily on the Beijing Olympics turning into a financial bonanza for the West, not to mention a moment of glory for the host country. Many Olympic venues have in fact been sponsored by Western companies who want a return on their investment and not in visibility alone.

The fact is that the boycott and Tibet are not only things on the line. AsiaNews is not in favour of a boycott of the Beijing Games. Not going might satisfy one’s conscience or even anger, but it will not change the human rights situation in China or Tibet by one iota. Before, during and after the Games, Beijing will not start respecting the population, those who want to talk about democracy, those who want to speak out against the wide-spread corruption in which Communist Party members indulge, or those who want to live their faith, freely and without controls. 

China ratified the United Nations covenant covering human rights in March 1992, but has not adapted its legislation to protect human rights. For this it is important to force China to respect human rights through constant dialogue, criticism and commitment, by imposing ethical considerations to economic agreements that Western governments might readily defend otherwise.

And Tibet is not the only issue, not because we do not care about the Tibetan people or the Dalai Lama, but rather because China must be taken to task for problems in China proper and show that what happens in Tibet is a consequence of the repression that also takes place in Beijing.

The focus on the Tibet question is making China and its people pull up the wagons to defend motherland from a “new attack from the colonial powers”. Chinese newspapers and blogs are overflowing with anti-Western charges whilst Tibetans are even described as terrorists.

This is all leading the leadership in the same direction, namely tighter security controls that are not only snuffing the live out of Tibet but also out of all those in China who want political reforms, democracy, free speech, the right of assembly and religious freedom.

Pro-democracy dissidents who wanted to use the Olympic Games to alert world public opinion are being jailed, placed under house arrest, silenced.

Beijing is using Tibet to stir patriotic feelings and create national unity among its own people who, however unhappy they might be about inflation, unemployment, violence, slavery-like working conditions, lack of freedom, are readily silenced by accusations of lack of patriotism.

In our opinion, a pre-Olympic campaign should tell China to:

1)      renew the dialogue with the Dalai Lama, which Beijing ended by rejecting all demands for Tibetan cultural and religious autonomy (and not independence);

2)      free pro-democracy non-violent dissidents who have become a point of reference for political reforms which the leadership itself feels necessary but does not have the courage to pursue;

3)      release religious figures jailed for their faith and not any attack against the “social order”. They include at least three Catholic bishops, two from the underground Church (Mgr James Su Zhimin from Baoding and Mgr Cosma Shi Enxiang from Yixian) and one from the official Church (Mgr  Martin Wu Qinjing, from Zhouzhi in Shaanxi Province), who disappeared in police custody 11, 6 and 1 year ago respectively.

Steps in this direction would truly bring glory to China and be a blessing for the Beijing Olympics.

 

 

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