Tuesday, April 08, 2008

China's worst nighmare

The People's Republic of China (PRC) decided to bid for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games to show the world that they were a modern powerful country that should be respected. Yet due to the events of the last two years--and especially the last few months--China's giant PR festival is turning into massive damage control.

First, there were the stories of the polluted air, rivers, lakes, and land, so bad that the Chinese themselves were willing to take on the companies and their government cronies. Next, there was the numerous recalls of unsafe PRC-made products, especially children's toys dripping with lead paint--just in time for Christmas.

But the most important development was the crackdown after protests in Tibet. The world has always had a soft spot for Tibet, thanks to the brilliant Dali Lama's tours around the world and the various Tibetan monks that represent Tibet as a peaceful Buddhist kingdom.

PRC government officials don't get what all the hubbub is about. They see Tibet as their Vermont--a wayward boarder province that is a bit different from the rest of the country, but still part of the nation. But now every city the Olympic flame visits will be a chance for protesters to remind the world of all the human rights violations PRC commits on a daily basis.

But you know this is a real movement--and not just the usual liberal cranks--when you see this happening:
Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman says he supports the protests in San Diego that are threatening the Olympic torch run.
["Of course, I do. This is who we are," Huntsman, who has represented the U.S. government in China, told the Deseret Morning News. "I think we ought to be totally American about it, in terms of our expressions of outrage and concern and speaking up front and openly as we always do as Americans."
Huntsman said such protests can help pressure the Chinese government to "undertake a healthy dialog" with Tibet, considered an autonomous region. Last month, protests by Buddhist monks in Lhasa turned deadly as Chinese security forces poured into the Tibetan capital.

"I don't think it's bad," the governor said of the pressure being put on China to confront concerns over human rights. "In trade issues, we always exert pressure. That's how we made progress. But it has to be pressure combined with appropriate timing."]

Huntsman says he took part in protests himself in 1989 in opposition of China's treatment of demonstrators in Tiananmen Square. He says he protested outside of the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., despite running the Commerce Department's Asian affairs bureau at the time.
Huntsman was also Bush's Ambassador to Singapore before he became Governor, and he was in the running to be Chinese Ambassador (he also speaks Mandarin fluently) so he is fairly prominent American government official in East Asia. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Hillary Clinton want--who both have a lot of support from Chinese Americans---want to boycott the opening ceremonies. But it isn't just "liberals" that want to do that.
"If you think the opening ceremony is about recognizing China, then you probably would boycott it," [Mitt] Romney recently told CNN News. "If you think it's about recognizing the world and humankind, then you're there to pay respect to the athlete."
Well wait, which way do you think about it Romney? The Deseret News says your are against protests, but it could be construed either way...which I guess was the reason you said it that way.

While Bush might not lift a finger to remove the U.S. team from the opening ceremonies,you can be assured that some American Olympian will sport some sort of protest to PRC's regime. Some one's warm up jersey will have a Tibetan flag on it. Or someone will turn their back to Chairman Mao's flag. Maybe a person in the city will point out that their 400-year old family home was bulldozed in the name of "progress" (and of course, they don't have a Takings Clause in PRC). Maybe foreign protesters will flood Tianamen Square a build another lady democracy, and this time, the officials can't roll out the tanks or turn off the cameras.

PRC invited the world in to show off. "This is unprecedented for the Chinese to subject themselves to this kind of scrutiny and spotlight, and they knew in 2001 that would be part and parcel of hosting the Games," Hunstman said. "The reformers won out years ago by saying this is a good thing. There will be change." By the end of August, they may want to wish they could go hide. Tibet, Huntsman predicted, is "just the beginning of a litany of issues that will be brought up." The Chinese, he said, appear to be "willing to embrace greater change moving forward."

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