This time, donít look the other wayFATHER RAYMOND J. DE SOUZA
Surely, there must be a certain incomprehension in Beijing these days.
The question for friends of Tibet, for friends of the Chinese people, for friends of liberty, should be: Can it be different this time?
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is desperately trying to ensure that nothing disrupts the Games. IOC president Jacques Rogge assures everyone that he is engaged in “silent diplomacy” with the Chinese on human rights questions. The IOC remains silent, and fervently hopes everyone goes along diplomatically. Remember, in 1993, the IOC came within two votes of awarding the 2000 Olympic Games to Beijing, even as there were still bloodstains in Tiananmen Square. The IOC wants a tranquil Games, happy sponsors who get what they paid for and for everyone to break bread happily with the Chinese. For that, it is necessary to ignore the breaking of heads throughout the land.
The world can rightly claim to be appalled by the Tibetan crackdown — reports from Tibetan groups detail brutal torture and killings of monks and nuns — but no one can claim to be shocked. Is there a regime more ghastly than that of the People’s Republic of China?
Is any other government that so systematically suppresses all religious liberty, erecting religious bureaucracies to which believers are required to belong in order to worship? Is there any other regime that still imprisons and kills bishops, priests and monks who fail to swear loyalty to the state? Is there any other country where the entire population is subject to child-bearing control, with forced sterilization and abortions for those who decline to submit to state rules on family size? Is there any other regime that executes thousands of its citizens annually, the majority for the crime of challenging the ruling party? Is there any other country accused (by credible sources) of executing religious dissidents, harvesting their organs and selling them? Is there any other regime more dependable in its support of the worst kind of evil around the world ( Darfur)?
Even the vile regimes in Saudi Arabia, Cuba, North Korea and Zimbabwe do not compare to China across the breadth of its human rights violations.
The question is whether China’s size and growing prosperity mean that all this has to be ignored. The answer the world has given has generally been yes. There is business to be done, and political leaders are there to facilitate that, human rights be damned.
Canada ’s record is no cause for pride. Brian Mulroney, not a month after retiring as an MP, was in China, lobbying for the Desmarais family interests. During their terms in office, both Chrétien and Martin were China enthusiasts, favouring the sort of silent diplomacy that gets the contracts signed.
Now, the Olympics offer a chance to do something different. The idea of some kind of boycott is being discussed seriously. And for our part, Canada has a federal government more committed to human rights in China than ever before. The situation is therefore propitious for Canada to take the lead. The Prime Minister, preferably in joint action with opposition leaders, should announce that no federal political officials will attend the Beijing Games.
China ’s strangulation of Tibet is only an extension of the suffocation of liberty in China itself. Should the Olympics go off as planned, China will rightly conclude that the world has made its peace with Beijing’s oppression, and is indifferent to whether the Olympic rings are used as shackles. A modified boycott would expose that as a lie.This time, it can be different.
Father Raymond J. de Souza. "This time, don’t look the other way." National Post, (Canada) March 27, 2008.
Reprinted with permission of the National Post and Fr. de Souza.
Father Raymond J. de Souza is chaplain to Newman House, the Roman Catholic mission at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. Father de Souza's web site is here. Father de Souza is on the advisory board of the Catholic Education Resource Center.
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