2008-03-28 Jan van der Made
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Reporters Without Borders protest the Chinese Olympics

Policemen detain a protester as he holds a banner at the beginning of the flame-lighting ceremony for the Beijing 2008 gamesPolicemen detain a protester as he holds a banner at the beginning of the flame-lighting ceremony for the Beijing 2008 games
“We started this demonstration during the speech of Liu Qi, who is the president of the BOCOC, the Beijing organizing committee, and who is also a leading member of the Chinese Communist Party. And he was attending this ceremony. And when he started to speak we went out with the flag. And on this flag you can find our campaign, related to the Olympic Games in Beijing which is mainly five big rings transformed into handcuffs. To show that the Olympic Games are prepared in a sort of repressive environment and that we denounce the fact that there is no improvement of the human rights situation.”

But what do the Tibetans themselves think of this action? I went to the Office of Tibet and asked the representative of the Dalai Lama in France, mr. Wanku Beshi:

“NGO’s, they are free to do what they like. When these people are staging manifestations during the opening of the Olympic torch in Greece, they are not doing this out of happiness. It is not a kind of holiday. They are doing this because they are very much feeling about the absence of justice, absence of international communities’ listening to the peaceful people.”

Greek Police officers attempt to arrest a pro-Tibetan protester, with red paint covering her faceGreek Police officers attempt to arrest a pro-Tibetan protester, with red paint covering her face
More and more, people concerned about the human rights situation in Tibet are calling for a boycott of the Olympic Games. But do the NGO’s want to go that far? Vincent Brossel again:

“We are not in favor of the boycott, but we really need an international support not only from the public opion, the citizens or the NGO’s but from the governments to put pressure on the Chinese government to get real improvements before the games. “

Initially, the French government was not very committed to speak out:

Wanku Beshi: “The French reaction in the beginning has been very confused. Because the European countries, especially countries like the United Kingdom and the United States, and Germany has been very, even Poland has been very courageous, because they stated very clearly that China must listen to the Dalai Lama’s peace approach, which is there for many years now. So in the beginning, the French position has been very invisible. We can not see it, we don’t understand actually why the French side has acted in such a poor manner. But gradually I think they understood the position of other countries, but also the situation, the grave situation going on in Tibet, the violence of the Chinese forces and authorities, but also the manifestations by the French public.”

Tibetan activist Tenzin Dorjee, left, talks with IOC President Jacques Rogge, prior to the flame-lighting ceremony for the Beijing OlympicsTibetan activist Tenzin Dorjee, left, talks with IOC President Jacques Rogge, prior to the flame-lighting ceremony for the Beijing Olympics
Vincent Brossel: “We feel that this manifestation in Olympia has obliged people to think twice before saying, yes, I will be in Beijing on August 8th. To put the foreign governments in front of their responsibility. They cannot say I will be in Beijing anyway on August 8th. So we ask mr. Sarkozy to suspend his participation to the opening ceremony, waiting to get improvements. Of course we were satisfied by his change in tone, and we feel that France can be a leading country, because they will be at the head of the European countries in August.”

Some important guests already have said they won’t attend, one of them being the Prince of Wales. Director Stephen Spielberg, too, has announced he won’t be available to orchestrate the opening ceremony, to the dismay of the Beijing Olympic Committee, which calls all this actions, meddling, and interference. The question remains if all the actions, boycotts, partial boycotts or other activities disrupting the Games, won’t backfire so that in the end, the Tibetan people pay the price. For Network Europe, this is Jan van der Made, reporting from Paris.

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