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The G20 and economic crisis:

The Daily Telegraph [Sunday, August 17, 2008 12:51]
By Claire Harvey

WE’VE seen almost every possible emotion at these Olympics: misery, joy, despair and a wonderful display of raw surprise by the man from Togo.

Benjamin Boukpeti was so astonished at winning Togo’s first medal (of any colour) in the K-1 slalom that he snapped his oar in half, then waved the Togo flag so violently that he capsized. It was lovely.

There has been some sensational soprano grunting, too, from the tiny girl weightlifters. Not sure if it counts as an emotion but, as a display of feeling, there’s nothing so emphatic as a staccato pre-jerk bark from a little lady with barrel thighs.

But there’s been no hint that the athletes in Beijing think or feel anything beyond the rush of lactic acid. Where’s the political consciousness, people?

Apart from an open letter sent to Chinese Premier Hu Jintao before the Games, in which 120 past and present athletes (sadly, none of them Australian) raised concerns about Tibet, there has been a depressing silence.

Don’t competitors want to acknowledge that they’re competing in a police state? Are they conscious of what happens beyond the ring of army tanks around the Olympic precinct? What a shame.

When the International Olympic Committee handed hosting rights to China, we read a great deal of speculation about how the IOC hoped it could help democratise China.

My natural inclination is to suspect the IOC of dodginess at every opportunity, but I did have some hope that this might just turn out to be more than one diseased old regime clapping another on the back.

Perhaps, I thought, this will shine a disinfecting light into the dark corners of repression. And, surely, some brave athlete will use their time on the winner’s podium to stick two fingers up to the regime.

If anyone has the opportunity to use fame for good, it’s Olympic athletes.

They have the exposure – and the orthodontic perfection – to get a message heard around the globe. They also have a captive audience of journalists desperate to hold Beijing accountable for the off-field bullying and brutality we all know is going on.

If Michael Phelps can get the Olympic rings tattooed on one hip and a big M for Michigan University on the other, why not a T for Tibet on his ankle?

What’s stopping Libby Trickett saying something like: “Oh, and while I’m live on television, I’d like to thank China for hosting the Games and encourage the government to embrace the spirit of openness and harmony by releasing a few political prisoners”.

Yes, I know the Australian Olympic Committee has said athletes aren’t allowed to do that sort of thing, and I’m well aware our Olympic bureaucrats have a record of petty score-settling that may make team members wary of doing anything naughty.

The AOC, remember, spent three decades punishing Peter Norman for wearing a human rights badge on the podium while Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave a black power salute at the 1968 Games.

Today’s athletes have the same opportunity to make their voices heard. They’ve had all the benefits of education, travel and, in many cases, exposure to the work of international charities to enlarge their sense of global citizenship.

And they’re the only ones who can do it.

The Beijing Organising Committee is doing everything in its power to stop journalists raising politics. A BOCOG moderator blocked a question about the Russia-Georgia war during a press conference for a Georgian medal-winner.

When asked why, BOCOG spokesman Wei Wang trotted out the usual pap about Rule 51.3 of the Olympic Charter, which forbids the promotion of political agendas.

BOCOG may feel comfortable bullying journalists but the politburo isn’t going to try taking a medal off an athlete for chucking in the odd “Free Tibet!” at the end of a press conference.

It’s worth the risk, isn’t it?

Reading the news this morning I was not surprised to hear little about the Olympic torch and its passage through Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. However, what DID strike me was some of the information found while reading an article from the AFP:

The five-kilometre-relay, which took place amid heavy downpour in this Indian Ocean city, ended at the Chinese-built National Stadium without any incident or breach of security.

Interesting, isn’t it? That China has such an influence in the city and the torch passes without so much as a single protest?!

Not only that, but:

Tanzania, long a socialist country with close ties to the eastern Communist bloc, enjoys excellent relations with China since diplomatic ties were established in 1964.

The Asian giant, which has an aggressive economic policy on the mineral-rich continent, is a major investor in the east African nation’s fledgling economy.

Bilateral trade stood at 794 million dollars (500 million euros) in 2007, close to a 50 percent increase from the previous year.

President Jakaya Kikwete is currently on a four-day state visit to China and the flame was met at the airport by Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda late Saturday. It will then be flown Oman less than 24 hours later.

Interesting, eh?

BEIJING – Crisis. Disarray. Sadness. Four months before the opening of what was supposed to be the grandest Olympics in history, the head of the International Olympic Committee is using words that convey anything but a sense of joyous enthusiasm.

The protest-marred Olympic torch relay and international criticism of China’s policies on Tibet, Darfur and human rights have turned the Beijing Games into one of the most politically charged in recent history and presented the IOC with one of its toughest tests since the boycott era of the 1970s and ’80s.

“It is a crisis, there is no doubt about that,” IOC President Jacques Rogge said Thursday. “But the IOC has weathered many bigger storms.”

At the same time, Rogge called on China to respect its “moral engagement” to improve human rights and to fulfill promises of greater media freedom. He also reaffirmed the right of free speech for athletes at the Beijing Games.

Rogge spoke in Beijing just hours after the completion of the torch relay in San Francisco, where the route was shortened and the flame diverted to prevent disruptions by massive crowds of anti-China protesters.

Rogge’s use of the word “crisis” to describe the torch relay and the Beijing buildup came as a surprise. The Belgian orthopedic surgeon’s comments usually are measured and low-key.

He cited previous crises — the attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics and the boycotts of the 1976, 1980 and 1984 Games.

“The history of the Olympic Games is fraught by a lot of challenges,” Rogge said. “This is a challenge but you cannot compare to what we had in the past.”

British IOC member Craig Reedie believes the worst is over.

“I hope that we are through it now,” he said. “I think the furor that has affected the torch in London, Paris and to some extent in San Francisco will now die down. … But it is fair to say that this kind of political protest is a new experience for the IOC and we have all found it extremely uncomfortable.”

After the chaos caused by pro-Tibet demonstrators during torch relays in London and Paris, IOC officials were relieved the North American leg passed without any injuries.

“Fortunately, the situation was better in San Francisco,” Rogge said. “It was, however, not the joyous party that we had wished it to be.

“Athletes in many countries are in disarray and we need to reassure them,” he added. “Our major responsibility is to offer them the games they deserve. … We have 120 days to achieve this.”

Earlier in the week, IOC officials had contemplated possibly cutting short the international leg of the relay, but Rogge said Thursday that was not an option.

“This scenario is definitely not on the agenda,” he said. “We are studying together with (Beijing organizers) to improve the torch relay, but there is no scenario of either interrupting or bringing (the torch) back directly to Beijing.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that local officials still might not shorten existing routes if security demands it.

Already, the head of the committee organizing the torch run in Indonesia said the route will be significantly shortened because of Chinese concerns it might attract pro-Tibet protests.

The relay, scheduled for April 22, was originally planned to follow a 10-mile course in Jakarta, but now it will only travel in the vicinity of the city’s main sports stadium, said Sumohadi Marsis, the head of the organizing committee.

Hong Kong Chief Secretary for Administration Henry Tang said officials many tweak the torch relay route to ensure order when the flame arrives April 30. He said 3,000 police will be deployed.

Hong Kong newspapers reported Wednesday that officials may shorten the route and are considering transporting the torch to its next stop, the nearby gambling enclave of Macau, by plane instead of by boat to avoid protests at sea.

“We will constantly re-examine and improve the route so that the torch relay is smooth, safe, orderly and dignified,” Tang said.

The flame will be carried through Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Friday, with a dozen other countries still to come. The relay also is expected to face demonstrations in New Delhi, India, which has a substantial Tibetan population, and possibly elsewhere on its 21-stop tour before arriving in mainland China on May 4. The Olympics begin Aug. 8.

Rogge said he had assurances from Beijing organizers that all measures were being taken to ensure the torch’s “safe passage.”

The future of international torch relays is in serious doubt, however. Rogge said “all options are open” for future games, including restricting the relays to the territory of the host country, a policy favored by a large number of IOC members. Athens, in 2004, was the first host city to organize a global relay.

Rogge said the issue would be reviewed later in the year — “not in the heat of this week’s events.”

Rogge, who has come under pressure from critics to speak out on China, was asked whether he had second thoughts about awarding the games to Beijing seven years ago.

“I’ve said that it is very easy with hindsight to criticize the decision,” he said. “It’s easy to say now that this was not a wise and a sound decision.”

But Rogge insisted Beijing had “clearly the best bid” and offered the strong pull of taking the Olympics to a country with one-fifth of the world’s population.

“That was the reasoning for awarding the bid to Beijing.”

When Beijing was seeking the games, Rogge noted, Chinese officials said the Olympics would help advance social change, including human rights. He called that a “moral engagement” and stressed there was no “contractual promise whatsoever” on human rights in the official host city contract.

“I would definitely ask China to respect this moral engagement,” Rogge said, in one of his most pointed comments on the subject.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman responded that IOC officials support adhering to the Olympic Charter and “not bringing any irrelevant political factors into the Beijing Olympics.”

“I hope the IOC officials will continue to adhere to the principles set by the Olympic charter,” Jiang Yu said.

Rogge reported having “very frank and open discussions” with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on a range of Olympic issues Wednesday. He declined to elaborate.

Rogge insisted that “a number of important points have been met” on human rights, including a new Chinese law enacted in 2007 that removed many restrictions on foreign journalists. But he said the law had not been fully implemented and he was urging Chinese officials to do so “as soon as possible.”

Rogge refused to be drawn on the prospect of top world leaders snubbing the Beijing opening ceremony. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not be attending the opening, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy is considering staying away. U.S. Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton have called on President Bush to boycott the ceremony.

“Politicians have to make their decisions themselves,” Rogge said. “The IOC will not intervene in this matter.”

Rogge sought to reassure athletes that they are free to express their political opinions — as long as they do so away from official Olympic venues in Beijing.

Rogge said free expression has been enshrined in the Olympic Charter for more than 40 years as a “basic human right.” However, the charter also forbids any “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” in any Olympic sites or venues.

“I’m very clear on the fact that athletes have ample opportunities to express themselves without hindrance, but just by respecting the sacred environment of the Olympic village, the Olympic venues the podium and so forth,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama said he is willing to support the Beijing Olympics, but China cannot suppress protests in Tibet with violence or tell those calling for more freedom in his homeland “to shut up.”

During a stopover in Japan on his way to the United States, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader strongly denied Chinese allegations he and his followers have been fomenting unrest before the Olympics. He said he has supported China’s hosting the Olympics from the start.

“Right from the beginning, we supported the Olympic Games,” he told reporters in Japan. “I really feel very sad the government demonizes me. I am just a human; I am not a demon.”

The Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since a failed 1959 uprising in Tibet, said he would even like to attend the opening ceremony if the Tibetan crisis is resolved. “If things improve and the Chinese government starts to see things realistically, I personally want to enjoy the big ceremony,” he said.

Reuters has cited Chinese state media reports on the identity of the Olympic torch protecters who were seen in blue tracksuits during the Paris and Londion legs of the Olympic Torch Relay.

According to Chinese state media the men in tracksuits are employed by BOCOG (the Beijing Olympic Organissing Committee) and were handpicked from the People’s Armed Police (PAP) to form the “flame protection squad” last August. The squad is responsible for protection of the Olympic Torch during the Torch Relay.

The squad has generated huge controversy due to their heavy-handed tactics. One of the London torch-bearers, Konnie Huq, has said that she saw them pushing around British policemen during the London leg. Sebastian Coe, the chairman of the London 2012 Games Organising Committee, described them as “thugs” according to the British media.

The People’s Armed Police is a security force unit of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). It has been very active in putting down recent protests in Tibet. Free Tibet Campaign has received eyewitness accounts that the PAP have been involved in cases of brutality during the recent protests, including firing live ammunition into crowds of Tibetan protesters on April 3 in Grdze county in Sichuan province.

Matt Whitticase of Free Tibet Campaign said: “It beggars belief that personnel from the PAP were allowed on to the streets of London at all, let alone that they were allowed to push Metroplitan Police around. They come from the same unit that shot dead in cold blood a Tibetan woman on the

They are members of China's paramilitary police force, dispatched from Beijing with a mission to protect torchbearers and ensure that the Olympic flame never goes out during its journey around the world. (AP Photo/Ian Walton, File)
A police officer detains a pro-Tibet demonstrator along the route of the torch relay in London, in this April 6, 2008 file photo. They are members of China’s paramilitary police force, dispatched from Beijing. (AP Photo/Ian Walton, File)

Nangpa-la Pass in September 2006 and the PAP has been very active in brutally putting down recent Tibetan protests inside Tibet, according to eyewitness statements received by Free Tibet Campaign. The British government must explain immediately who authorised this unit to scuffle with our own police, and whether the government knew that they came from the PAP when they were authorised to escort the flame on London’s streets.”

Following my report yesterday, seven pro-Tibet demonstrators were arrested in San Francisco after tying anti-Chinese banners to the cables of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The flame is due to arrive in the city within hours, following anti-Chinese protests in Paris and London.

Chinese sources, however, stated ““no force” can stop the Olympic flame relay”

Police in San Francisco, where the torch is due to be relayed on Wednesday, arrested seven people on Monday and charged them with conspiracy and causing a public nuisance.

Three climbers among them faced additional charges of trespassing.

They had scaled the bridge to perch 150 feet (46m) above traffic, attaching “Free Tibet” banners and a Tibetan flag.

One of them, Laurel Sutherlin, spoke by mobile phone to reporters.

“If the IOC [International Olympic Committee] allows the torch to proceed into Tibet they’ll have blood on their hands,” he said.

US Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has called on President George W Bush to boycott the opening ceremony of the Olympics unless China improves its human rights record.

Four activists in London, UK, were detained this morning for abseiling off Westminster bridge and unfurling a 74 square meter protest banner reading, “One World, One Dream: Free Tibet 2008,” mocking China’s Olympics slogan “One World, One Dream.”

The action took place on the eve of the controversial arrival of China’s Olympic torch relay in London, amidst mounting pressure on the International Olympic Committee to remove all Tibetan areas from the relay route.

Pema Yoko (25) of Greenwich, Conall Hon (26) originally from Belfast, Peter Speller (23) of Cambridge, and Dan Burston (22) of Birmingham were detained for their involvement in the action.

Over a thousand Tibetans and supporters are expected in the streets of London on Sunday to condemn China’s ongoing crackdown on freedom protests inside Tibet.

The action by Tibet activists comes as reports of violent crackdown by Chinese authorities on Tibetan demonstrators emerge out of Tibet. Chinese paramilitary forces opened fire on a crowd of unarmed monks and laypeople in southeastern Tibet On April 3, killing at least 8 people.

“The Chinese government wants the British public to celebrate China at a moment when Tibetans are being gunned down by Chinese forces for doing nothing more than speaking out for freedom,” said Pema Yoko, National Coordinator of Students for a Free Tibet UK, a British born Tibetan and one of the activists detained.

“With Tibetans being rounded up, brutalized and killed, it is unconscionable for the International Olympic Committee to allow China to take the Olympic torch through Tibet,” she said.

Chinese authorities in Tibet have stated their intention to ensure stability during the torch relay ‘at all costs,’ which means increased militarization of Tibetan areas. According to the Chinese authorities’ own figures, thousands of people have been detained in recent weeks, with speedy show trials promised before May 1.

“China’s attempt to politicize the London leg of the torch relay was heightened this week when China’s ambassador to Britain, Fu Ying announced her participation in the relay. Also, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is scheduled to officially receive the torch at 10 Downing Street,” the free Tibet group said in a statement.

“It is appalling that Gordon Brown plans to receive the Olympic torch tomorrow. As someone with Chinese and British roots, I feel strongly that Britain must take a firm stance against China’s abuses in Tibet,” said Conall Hon (26), member of Students for a Free Tibet to abseil off the bridge. “If the Chinese government wants acceptance from the international community, it must immediately stop its baseless attacks on the Dalai Lama and start working toward a meaningful solution to the Tibetan issue.”

China’s deadly attack on Tibetans in Tongkor Township (Karze County) in southeastern Tibet on April 3rd came after Chinese authorities detained two monks for possessing photos of the Dalai Lama following a raid by over 3,000 armed police at Tongkor monastery. The police opened fire on the crowd of over 700 people, nearly half of whom were monks, gathered to protest the arrests. All Tibetan areas remain closed off to independent media, but eyewitness reports from all across Tibet describe horrific beatings, suicide attempts by monks locked inside their monasteries, house-to-house searches, and large groups of Tibetans being boarded onto trains at Lhasa’s new railway station. As the situation inside Tibet remains critical, several peaceful protests and actions are planned for tomorrow’s relay here in London.

China on Tuesday accused “Tibet independence forces” of planning to use suicide squads to trigger bloody attacks — the lastest in a string of accusations that have taken aim at supporters of the Dalai Lama. The prime minister of Tibet’s government-in-exile denied the claims, saying Tibetans are committed to a “nonviolent path.”

“To our knowledge, the next plan of the Tibetan independence forces is to organize suicide squads to launch violent attacks,” Public Security Bureau spokesman Wu Heping said Tuesday.

“They claimed that they fear neither bloodshed nor sacrifice,” Wu told a news conference.

Wu offered no firm evidence to support his claims.

Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama and his supporters of orchestrating anti-government riots in Lhasa last month as part of a campaign to sabotage the August Beijing Olympics and promote Tibetan independence.

The 72-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner has denied the charge, condemning the violence and urging an independent international investigation into the unrest and its underlying causes.

Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche of Tibet’s exiled government reiterated that position Tuesday.

“There is no question of suicide attacks,” said Rinpoche. “There is absolutely no doubt in our mind that we want to follow the nonviolent path.”

Rinpoche said the Tibetan exile community fears the Chinese might “masquerade as Tibetans” and plan attacks to discredit the activists.

China’s campaign against the Dalai Lama has been underscored in recent days with showings of decades-old propaganda films on state television portraying Tibetan society as cruel and primitive before the 1950 invasion by communist troops.

The government has sought to portray life as fast returning to normal in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa — the scene of the deadliest violence — although its landmark Buddhist monasteries of Jokhang, Drepung and Sera were closed and surrounded by troops, tour operators said.

Monks from the three temples backed peaceful protests that broke out March 10 on the anniversary of a 1959 uprising against Chinese rule. The protests turned violent four days later and spread across a wide area of western China inhabited by Tibetans.

Beijing claims Tibet has been Chinese territory for centuries, but many Tibetans say they were essentially independent for much of that time.

China has ignored international calls for mediation and refuses to discuss accusations of discrimination, repression and economic disenfranchisement raised by the Dalai Lama and overseas supporters — as well as complaints over alleged shooting and other excesses in the ensuing crackdown.

Chinese state media has focused overwhelmingly on the victims of the violence in Tibet, releasing the names of 14 of the 18 civilians and one police officer it says were killed in the Lhasa riots. All but one were migrants from other parts of China, among the many who have flooded into the region in recent decades.

Xinhua has reported 12 were killed in arson attacks. The causes of death in two other cases were undetermined, and four bodies had yet to be identified.

From an email I received:

Nearly three weeks have passed since Tibetan monks from Drepung Monastery carried out peaceful protests demanding their freedom. Their action spread to Sera Monastery and then to the streets of Lhasa and into the hearts of Tibetans across Tibet and around the world, igniting a nationwide uprising.

Despite massive military presence, widespread incarceration, torture, and an ongoing media blackout, Tibetans continue to rise up.

On Thursday, a group of monks disrupted a tightly controlled Chinese government media tour of Lhasa – the only foreign media allowed into Tibet since the national uprising started on March 10th. As dozens of journalists and their government handlers toured the Jokhang temple, thirty monks burst out of a room to tell the journalists that “Tibet is not free” and not to believe China’s lies.

At great risk to their personal safety, these incredibly brave monks have sent yet another message of freedom to the world.

Help SFT continue its support of Tibetans inside Tibet.
To Donate go to: http://www.studentsforafreetibet.org/donate

Tibetans are rising up like never before against Chinese rule. After suffering for half a century and in this Olympic year, with all eyes on China, Tibetans are risking everything for their freedom. This is the uprising of a people against their oppressor, and the only possible outcome is freedom. But Tibetans inside Tibet still need our support more than ever before.

SFT has had its work cut out for it over the past weeks: the lighting of the Tibetan Freedom Torch; our recent protests in Olympia Greece; thousands of emails, faxes and letters targeting decision makers around the world to remove Tibet from the torch relay route; working around the clock to ensure the international media tells the true story of what is happening inside Tibet. And we’re just getting started. SFT will continue to be at the forefront of international efforts to ensure that Tibetans’ call for freedom is amplified around the world in the lead up to and during the Beijing Olympics.

Donate now. Help SFT make history for Tibet in 2008.

On Monday, March 31st, as the Olympic torch relay arrives in Beijing with much celebration and fanfare, Tibetans and supporters around the world will take part in a Global Day of Action for Tibet. Click here to find a protest or vigil near you. If you are organizing an event on this day, please let us know by email: kala@studentsforafreetibet.org.

On the day of action, Avaaz – the global organization that has collected an unprecedented 1.2 million signatures in support of Tibet – will be delivering this historic petition to Chinese embassies and consulates around the world. Help reach the goal of 2 million signatures before Monday! Sign the Avaaz petition – Stand With Tibet.

For up-to-date information on the situation inside Tibet, please continue to monitor SFT’s website  and blogs.

http://www.studentsforafreetibet.org

http://www.blog.studentsforafreetibet.org

http://www.beijingwideopen.org

Thank you so much for your continued support of SFT and Tibetans around the world.

Tibet will be free.

Kalaya’an Mendoza
Grassroots Coordinator
Students for a Free Tibet

A group of more than 20 Tibetan schoolchildren has staged a protest in the main United Nations compound in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. A UN spokesman said the children, aged between 15 and 18, and dressed in school uniform scaled the wall.

This is the boldest Tibetan protest in nearly three weeks in Kathmandu.

Tibetan exiles say police have also arrested nearly 90 of their community as their demonstrations against Chinese rule in Tibet continue.

A UN spokesman told the BBC the 21 students apologised to senior officials and guards for entering the UN compound.

The children said they wanted to draw attention to the crisis in Tibet and unfurled a flag featuring independence slogans for the Chinese-ruled region, the spokesman said.