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The world can buy into Beijing's visage of athleticism and openness but we'd be turning a blind eye to increased repression in China

Date: Monday, 11-August-2008
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The world can buy into Beijing's visage of athleticism and opennessbut we'd be turning a blind eye to increased repression in China
By RICK BELL Columnist
The Calgary Sun (Canada)
August 9, 2008

Even the Olympics isn't big enough to hide the terrible truth.

And, unlike in China, you have a choice.

You don't have to buy their bull. You can go over the moon recallingthe artistry of the opening ceremonies, you can applaud the effortsof the athletes all you want and, yes, marvel at the hospitality ofthe ordinary Chinese.

But no mistake. Here, as opposed to China, autocratic China,dictatorial China, one-party state China, the country of thecrackdown on everything the rulers dislike, you have a choice. Youdon't have to buy their bull.

The government of the so-called People's Republic of China has not changed.

Yes, now they have nightclubs where the rich of the cities can partyand wear designer brands.

Yes, the rulers calling themselves communist are now about ascommunist as a Bay Street broker, minus the snazzy suspenders.

But China is a dictatorship. There are no rights as we understand theword. If you don't toe the line, you get smacked.

There is no room for independent ideas, politics is a crime. TheOlympics have brought more repression, the rounding up of dissenters,the ongoing issue of the Internet being blocked and places like Tibetstill know all too well the boot of the Beijing authorities comes inonly one style: steel-toed and heavy tread.

China can host the Olympics and put on a propaganda show for all theworld to see, a monumental attempt to re-brand a regime standingagainst everything we are supposed to support -- openness, tolerance,freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of religion, freedomof the press, democracy, human dignity.

Hope we haven't forgotten about such ideals.

Many of the world leaders play nice. Who wants to offend China? Theyhave money. They have the world's largest market, waiting for allthose moneymakers with no backbone willing to behave and smilesweetly and look the other way or speak empty words.

Beijing promised openness at the Games. Did anyone actually believethe Chinese government? Was anyone really surprised when the biggestof the world's remaining Big Brother tyrants went back on its wordand put people under house arrest or tossed individuals off theirland or exiled opponents far from the capital or treated athletes andother foreigners like their own strait-jacketed citizens or roughedup anyone who chose to say something about anything not of the party line?

The only ones shocked are no doubt the descendants of the dimwits whothought if Hitler signed a piece of paper he wouldn't go to war.

Then there's the old whine. Don't politicize the Olympics. Well, theOlympics allowed themselves to be politicized when they consented tobe the vehicle for dictators to try and clean their political dirty laundry.

What does anybody expect, the oppressed to be silent about theiroppression? Not likely.

It is sad. There was a time, not so long ago, when we recognizedfreedom fighters. Alas, that was before our collective moral compasslost its direction.

Oh, the athletic performances are indeed what the program says theGames are all about. But the Beijing agenda is to have you sit backat the end of the day and say: Those despots aren't all that bad.Look, they are so darn polite. Quite right, especially if you bendthe knee and kiss their butt.

This city has been particularly adept at puckering up when it comesto China. They have coin. We have companies with oil to sell. Simple.

This city rolled over and whitehatted their dictators, snubbedChinese defenders of democracy and, just this year, one phone call tothe Alberta government from the Chinese consulate, that fortress on 6Ave. and 9 St. S.W. with its fence topped in arrowhead spikes, andthen a call from the province to the city, led to both levels oflocal government pulling away from any involvement with a visitingdance troupe the Chinese didn't like.

They say jump, we ask how high.

The night before last, the very small Tibetan community in Calgaryholds a candlelight vigil in this city. About 130 stand in front ofthe Chinese consulate. Inside the fortress, someone is takingpictures of these people chanting and holding Tibet flags and postersof Buddha, probably wondering how weak Canadians must be to allow such events.

Outside, the Tibetans and their supporters pray for the Beijingbosses to one day act justly. They pray for those who have sufferedat the hands of the hands of a leadership no one ever elected.

Tashi Phuntsok is the soft-spoken president of Calgary's Tibetan community.

"Let them show what they want to show to the world," says Tashi, of the Games.

"But there are good, brave media and good, brave athletes who willsignal there's something very wrong."

We can hope.

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