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”.