Boycott as the only effective form of protest

talks to the Vice President of the European Parliament on Olympic boycott and human rights abuses China

Beth Gandy talks to the Vice President of the European Parliament on Olympic boycott and human rights abuses China

While the Olympic Torch, the manifestation of the Olympic spirit, continues its tour around the world, April 30 marked 100 days until the start of the Games in Beijing.

However many deem China responsible for genocide in Darfur and Tibet and some vehemently uphold that it is in Tibet that the Olympic spirit died. For these reasons, should a boycott of this year’s event in China take place?

Many in the European Parliament stand by this including its Vice-President, Edward McMillan-Scott, the Conservative MEP for the Yorkshire and Humber region. He created the European Democracy Initiative in 2004 and has been actively campaigning for a debate about the prospect of a boycott.

When interviewed by Nouse he shed some light on the situation. “As the founder of the EU’s £100m democracy and human rights programme, I have tried to gauge the capacity to work in the world’s largest country and its biggest tyranny. There is a universal acknowledgement in the human rights community that the situation in China is already worse than it was in 2001 when it was awarded the games by a hopeful IOC (International Olympic Committee).”

Along with organisations such as Amnesty International, McMillan-Scott believes human rights abuse in China is actually worsening as a consequence of the Olympics. In being asked by the IOC to organise “a secure Olympics Games”, the Chinese government has resorted to more arrests of dissidents and more censorship.

The Games have in the past been used to bring estranged countries together. At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, North and South Korea entered the same stadium together during the opening ceremony for the first time, two countries that consistently antagonise each other at the negotiating table. The South Koreans, in the end, used the Olympics as a coming-out event, as it is hoped China will, and it is now a democracy.

It is thought that the Olympics will give the country exposure to the world, to different ideals will hopefully bring about change. As McMillan-Scott said: “thanks to the boycott campaign, the world is watching China.”

He went on to scrutinise Chinese politics saying that “the techniques of repression in the name of the Chinese Communist Party are so effective with their PR company teaching 84 key Beijing spokesmen how to lie about them. China is selling the same techniques to other tyrannies around the world, from Burma to Sudan to Zimbabwe”.

Politicians worldwide will now face a decision over whether to lend legitimacy to a regime with a terrible human rights record, which continues to oppress people and silence those who oppose it. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, has vowed to boycott the opening ceremony. Hilary Clinton also recently took to the stand in her election plight, urging George Bush’s administration to reconsider its Olympic plans. France’s President Sarkozy has not ruled out a boycott, and while Gordon Brown has said he will go to the closing ceremony of the Games, it is likely that in private he is uncertain about his position.

McMillan-Scott takes a powerful stand supporting the boycott saying: “It is time for the democratic world to stand up and be counted”.


  1. Many people talk about boycott Beijing for human right abuses. How many of them show actual evidence of such accursing? I believe the western law is based on the principle that “innocent until proven guality”. In addition, a witness’s word must be supported by hard evidence in order to confirm the conviction. Where is the hard evidence?

    People like to talk bold especially when hinding behind computer. Talking bold makes people looking brave. But are they truely brave. When Iraq was invaded by US and UK. How many countries in EU actually condemned this action (China did condemn such action)? Why not? Because there is a double standard when EU facing problem like this.

    If Beijing should be boycotted for its crackdown of a riot, then how about London 2012 for UK invasion of Iraq and Chcaigo 2016 for US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan(if it get a chance to hold the game). If the European really consider they are the defender of human right, they should look in the mirror in the first place.

    If a Jewdish cannot suffer Christianity, why should commuism China suffer a capitalism democracy. Respect the difference in China before expecting them to respect you. Considering talking in a equal position instead of hypocrispy. The world is not for western people and capitalism democracy only. Do not consider the western way as the only way.

    We will see who is the final victim of boycotting.

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  2. Hi Kuan,

    In your first paragraph you misunderstand western law; a witness’s word does not need to be supported by hard evidence.

    In your second paragraph, I think you’re trying to claim that no EU countries condemned the Iraq invasion. Once again, you are mistaken. At least the very least French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin condemned the invasion.

    As for your third paragraph, feel free to boycott the London 2012 Olympics if you so desire, no-one’s stopping you.

    As for your fourth and fifth paragraph, I can’t quite grasp the point you’re trying to make, nor can I really see what your thinly veiled threat is supposed to mean.

    Kind regards,

    Chris Northwood

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  3. I do think Kuan Yan is touching on something important there – the moral hypocrisy often demonstrated by the West. I think the idea that the UK can hold some human rights-based moral high ground is absurd.

    Firstly because we go around the Middle East ransacking countries in the name of freedom but ultimately subjecting them to worse suffering than they encountered before, and secondly because it would only be a boycott on an extremely shallow level. Everyone will meanwhile buy lots of food, clothing, toys and technology which comes from China because they’re cheaper.

    In some ways, I think the UK is asking for a boycott of London 2012 really. This is a country which sends its own troops into war without even giving them suitable equipment, or even considering that NOT going to war might be more humanitarian.

    Anyways, a boycott of an Olympic opening ceremony. Hardly a terrifying message to despots everywhere. Whoop-dee-doo.

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  4. Kuan Yan,

    I’m really glad you commented, and put across a different view, and I appreciate that you perhaps have some personal experience, so please don’t take offence to what I’m about to say.

    In your second paragraph, I think you’re missing the point somewhat. Certainly Iraq is currently occupied by US and UK Forces, although I’m not really sure what relevance it has. Aside from the obvious issue of individual civilians vs state governments, in fact many people protested the war in Iraq both in Britain and the US, just because a person or state is hypocritical doesn’t mean it’s not right.

    People in the western world feel that the Chinese Governments Consistent abuse of Human Rights is wrong, and they should feel free to boycott the olympic, or take a stand regardless of the way other people in their country think or act.

    This brings me on to your first point: Evidence. I apologise if I’m wrong, but I think you’re suggesting that news outlets outside of China have been lying about what the Chinese Government is doing in Tibet and elsewhere.

    To be honest, that is a totally fair view to have, this is normally the point that I’d link to some of the many BBC articles detailing the level of oppression and censorship to be found in China, but after all, that’s simply my government funded possible propaganda source, just as Xinhua is yours, and that is genuinely something I respect.

    If you think the BBC is lying, then that’s fine, we’re always going to disagree over the basic facts.

    But I ask you this:

    Sitting in England I can access both the BBC website with criticism of China, and numerous pro China websites. Can your friends and family do this from within China? When I was in China I couldn’t.

    Why is it that when you Image Search ‘Tiananmen’ on and you get very different results? Is that really western propaganda?

    These are minor, tiny things in comparison to what I believe is going on in China, but they make my point, from my point of view, and most of the world outside China’s point of view, China is a terrible abuser of basic human freedoms. I appreciate you might think It’s not, but I hope you also ask yourself how much freedom you really have.

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  5. I’m personally going to boycott the olympics this year as well as all businesses associating themselves with it. Hit greedy ignorant egocentic capitalists where it hurts, their wallets. I will begin by boycotting the tv network,NBC, that is hosting the olympics. Any resturant that uses the olympics to gain business will lose me as a customer. Any sportswear brand supporting it with their commercials I will be done with. I also do not buy products made in China. It’s difficult because many or most items are made in China.
    I have my many reasons why I’m boycotting. I feel sorry for the average and “below average” Chinese citizen, the olymic athletes, and their families. But I need to start somewhere and this is my answer right now. Do onto others as you would have them do onto you. To quote a wise man, “What you do to the least of my brothers you have done to me.”
    Thank you for letting me express myself.

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  6. Its so funny how some of you guys are picking apart Kuan’s exact comments when in fact YOU are the ones who are missing the point. What he’s talking about is the overall lack of objectivity, credibility and adherence to jounalistic intergrity that western news networks have exhibited when covering China. The thing that really gets me is that Americans and Europeans will constantly talk about China’s “state run” media and gloat about how we have “free press” but look at your own media…it’s cultivating hate against China by taking the sides of special interest groups and politicians, In addition your media will crucify people who actually critique your society, while also defending mainstream ideas however misguided they are. In the end, a state-run media at least has some sense of responsibility and prudence. Conglomerate owned American/European networks say whatever they want and go the extra mile just to get a rise out of people for the sake of ratings. What happened to real journalism?
    Also if you’re gonna preach about morals, you should live up to them. Americans should ask the few NATIVE Americans(NOT American Indians)today how they feel. Their lands have been stolen, their cultures have been destroyed..and not one human rights activists talks about this- Why? because like some british talk show host put it “there aren’t many left LOL”- pretty funny eh?
    The British, and Europeans in general are the last ones who should be talking about “human rights”- what they did to China from the mid-19th century to the 20th century directly led to 100 years of suffering and cost millions upon millions of Chinese lives. You were the ones who bankrupted China, which at the time had the largest GDP in the world. You exploited our country and our citizens to no end for the sake of profit, placed signs in our cities that said “no dogs or chinese allowed” and helped throw our country into chaos. We’ve seen what kind of “morals” you Europeans live by. Now you guys are walking around saying “oh yeah, no big deal we were less enlightned back then…” To this day there hasn’t been one apology and not one cent has been returned to China. In addition no one talks about the 15 million civilians who died at the hands of the Japanese and no cares when Chinese civilians get attacked by Tibetans- Chinese deaths mean nothing to the human rights activists.
    The Chinese have always let the past go, and it the country had to in order to get ot where its at today. We are always quick to welcome people from other countries but all you Europeans and Americans ever do is push and push for your own point of view without any consideration for the facts or the consequences.
    Read about what Tibet was before 1959, what life was like for the working class under his so called “holiness.” look into what the Chinese have done for that same working class the last 50 years in terms of development and benefits. Read about Sudan, Somalia, Chad and study why modern African countries are still experiencing so many ethinic, economic and political problems. Let me give you a hint- (it wasn’t the Chinese) Today Europe and America are still doing WHATEVER IT TAKES to secure resources- They will talk up human rights abuses and point the finger at China for supporting Sudan. All the while they themselves are supporting corrupt dictators else where. Organizations like Save Darfur add fuel to the fire by saying we should “pressure China into complying.” Since when has pressure EVER worked in international diplomacy between large nations? There has to be compromise- not threats of boycotting- you give up something and we will too. But western countries don’t want to give up anything while they call for China to give up everything.
    Regarding Kuan’s last point which Chirs Northwood obviously didn’t understand-
    In the end, all this talk of boycotting and threatening leads to only one thing- a future breakdown of US/European and Chinese relations. The first step to major conflict is when citizens start hating people of another country out of sheer ignorence. This is what’s happening now, thanks to these human rights activists who continue to twist the image of China while never raising a word about their own countries. The anger is now being mirrored by the Chinese who have always stood by their country and government make no mistake about that. At a time when we should be promoting international understanding, we are in fact destroying it and laying the foundations for the next Cold War, something this world could ill afford given the economic/environmental challenges facing this world. As much as you’d like them to just dissappear, the Chinese aren’t going anywhere, so stop pointing the finger at China for all of your problems. Stop putting yourselves on a moral pedestal and living according to your self-serving, one-sided and misguided moral standards- Most people in the world don’t have the luxury that. Read a book, learn about history and stop swallowing whatever your media and politicians tell you.

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  7. Another comment- If I got a bunch of Native Americans together and we called for independence and started rioting what kind of “restraint” would we receive from the US government?
    Also in resonse to Kathleen, How did you get it into your head that the “average” Chinese actually need your sympathy? I know in your mind the Chinese are being oppressed by their government and need salvation. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is just so sick and twisted I don’t even know how to respond- Let me tell you- my father grew up starving under Mao’s regime, but to this day he loves his country dearly. My grandparents have lived through the Japanese invasion and atrocities, the Chinese civil war, the great leap foward, the cultural revolution, and they LOVE thier country. They are NOT brainwashed like all western citizens are led to believe. I just want to break out cursing right now but I won’t… Have you been to China?? This is just obvious proof that people who don’t read only see the world through the lens of their mass media their own ideologies. You can go ahead and boycott the olympics. All that’s gonna do is start a vicious cycle of unhealthy and uncalled for antagonism. Read about what your government has done toward China before breaking out on a moral crusade. In closing, your use of the words The “average” and “below average” just gives it away that you don’t even know what China is and what its become. The standard of living in China has risen dramatically over the last 20 years and yet people like you still think the Chinese are dirt poor overall.

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  8. Hi Terry,

    Many of what you state as facts as your beliefs about the western world are very, very wrong. I hope you’re not going by only what the Chinese government are telling you, Chinese supplied history textbooks, etc, and are also reading independent sources (such as the BBC), as well as known biased sources. Your post smacks of ignorance of western culture and beliefs, including a large underestimation at how much we hold governments accountable for human rights abuses in our own country.

    I recommend you look up the ownership and funding of the BBC, the world’s largest news broadcaster, you may find the information enlightening. I agree with you that many commercial news broadcasters (especially some of them in the States) are very biased, but then they don’t claim to be independent. If your issue is with mass media, than I advise you to embrace the new trend for social media (sites such as Reddit and Digg).

    Counter-example (more relevant seeing as this newspaper is British, not American) – the aboriginal people of Australia. We do realise how badly they were treated, and as such the Australian parliament issued an apology to them.

    As for your suggestion that “not one cent was repaid to China”, you don’t realise that (for one example), Tsinghua University was set up using money from the reparations paid by the Chinese in the wake of the Boxer Rebellion.

    Additionally, there are so many other problems with your rant – you bunch the whole “non-Chinese” world into one, America, Japan, Russia along with Britain and Europe – you must realise that these are different countries with different histories, right?

    >> Since when has pressure EVER worked in international diplomacy between large nations?

    It works all the time…

    >> The first step to major conflict is when citizens start hating people of another country out of sheer ignorence. This is what’s happening now, thanks to these human rights activists who continue to twist the image of China while never raising a word about their own countries.

    I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. This very newspaper contains documents outrage at human rights abuses occuring in this country –, in addition to the general discontent present due to Guantanamo Bay.

    >> The anger is now being mirrored by the Chinese who have always stood by their country and government make no mistake about that.

    This is the problem. You say that like it’s a good thing – the government should be accountable to the people, not expect blind obedience.

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