Changing China

Giant on the move

Watching human rites

August 9, 2008

Hu Jintao and George BushIn the end they came of course. Remember all that talk about leaders boycotting the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games over China’s ties with the government of Sudan or its crackdown on Tibetan rioters?

Well, when the lavish ceremony got underway in the Bird’s Nest stadium on Friday night, some 80 leaders and royals were watching, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy who had threatened not to turn up.

The extravaganza muffled the voices of China’s critics. Three Americans staged a protest outside the stadium about an hour before it got underway, draping themselves in a Tibetan flag, but they were quickly bundled away by security forces and forgotten. Human Rights Watch put out a statement slamming China for its commercial and diplomatic ties to Myanmar’s junta on the 20th anniversary of the 8-8-88 democracy uprising that was crushed, drawing parallels with the 8-8-2008 date chosen by Beijing for the opening of the Games, but it was barely mentioned in international media reports.

There will undoubtedly be more protests and more slamming of China by rights groups between now and the closing ceremony, but the world’s attention has switched to sport.

Some foreign leaders — many of them under pressure back home to press China on its human rights record — will bring the issue up with their hosts. U.S. President George W. Bush fired a broadside just hours before he landed in Beijing, and Sarkozy handed two lists of jailed dissidents to China’s president and premier. But no one seriously expects it to change Beijing’s policies.

Andrew Small, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), argues in the institution’s blog that there have been few concessions from China on many of the rights issues that the West has harped on in the past year.

“The mystery is why we thought it would be otherwise,” he writes. “While the Chinese government still hears the same 1990s language coursing around western politicians’ speeches, it knows that human rights — at home or abroad — don’t make the A-list of the agenda any more in its dealings with the major powers.”

Small argues that the economic stakes are too high for the United State to risk its relationship with China and there are other issues of more importance such as keeping Beijing on side in the North Korean nuclear talks and the squeeze on Iran over its nuclear programme, and then of course there is the diplomatic balancing act over Taiwan.

“Burma, Sudan, and Tibet sometimes make the upper end of a B-list but that is not where the real political capital is being spent.”


“While the Chinese government still hears the same 1990s language coursing around western politicians’ speeches, it knows that human rights — at home or abroad — don’t make the A-list of the agenda any more in its dealings with the major powers.”

Is he really saying there that human rights is just sooo nineties?

But if human rights isn’t on the West’s A-list why did we just see a US president make a major speech on human rights in China before entering the country for the Olympics?

Sure concern over human rights isn’t going to stop people doing business with China – or even boycott the opening ceremony – but it still seems to be a pretty big issue.

Posted by Simon | Report as abusive

It is western governments and communities that view the sports event as political event. China has been doing what she can to join in international community. She brought the world a spectacle at opening ceremony of Olimpic, She has been improving her human right record, she has been improving environment, she has been improving life level of 1.3 billion people,what is she blamed for?

Posted by swiming | Report as abusive

China will HAVE to capitulate on human rights issues and fully adopt a Western style human rights charter or else.

If not, it will never become a matured member of the 21st century family of countries that at least aspire to protecting people from state thuggery, violence and oppression.

The hard-faced aggression that, for example, the local Chinese police show towards anyone who exercises any kind of real freedom is staggering, disturbing and really quite disgusting.

China is NOT a place where ANYONE can feel safe until this outrageous lack of human rights is corrected over time. :-(

Posted by The Truth Is... | Report as abusive

I strongly disagree with The Truth is… who thinks China has no other way but to adopt a “Western style human rights charter”. I think you really have no knowledge of today’s China and no understanding at all of its people except some biased views got from media.

Why do you think the Western standards are the only way to go? Look at the US invading Iraq, look at the US support of dictators who are their allies, and look at the long colonialist history of western powers. No doubt China needs to do a lot of things in many areas, but their progress must come within, not dictated by some narrow-minded and arrogant people from outside! It will never work!

Posted by tired-of-china-bashing | Report as abusive

What about the persecution of peaceful meditation practice Falun Dafa or Falun Gong.

Just coz they believe in Truth, Benevolence and Tolerance the Chinese government (CCP) brutally persecutes them.

Posted by Pablo | Report as abusive

China will not listen to anyone else about how to conduct their countries business, they have proven this time and time again. To believe otherwise is only pulling the wool over our own eyes. Our capitalistic greed blinds us to China’s real intentions… to dominate the world under communisim.

We people buy up all the little shiny trinkets at Walmart and like to forget that… CHINA IS A COMMUNIST COUNTRY AND DON’T GIVE A RATS ASS ABOUT WHAT WE WESTERNERS THINK.

Wake up people!

Posted by Neal | Report as abusive

The lavish ceremony put on at the opening of the Great China Communist Games should tell us something. Did anyone notice how many people were used in the acts… sure, we all did… thousands and thousands. All mindlessly in union to a single purpose. Like a hive of ants. Quite scary. I believe this is a bold statement from the chinese to the world that even without great technology and modernization, which China is fast acquiring, they already have enough people, as in manpower, to over run and take over any other single civilization on the planet. Beyond the fanfare of tacky colored lights, fireworks and trapeze wires, we learn that the expenditure of valueless human flesh under communism can be dealt out at the corrupt dictators will and whim.

Think about that before you buy that next shiny trinket at Walmart.

Posted by Neal | Report as abusive

Dear Tibet, Sudan, and Burma,

I underdand that it is almost imposible for you to speak out what you want to say. I and my family have been thru this similar situation before in Vietnam.

I am not a rich businessman with a lot of money, or a high powerful polical world leader, who can make a real impact so that you are free, and there won’t be any more deaths & sufferings. I am a human, too. But at least, I am lucky enough to live in the USA, and I have the right to pray for you sincerely from my heart & soul. I do believe that there are a lot of people in this world, who also love, and support you, too.


Mr. Bush is a lame-duck chief executive of a country whose judicial branch lost the moral high ground beginning in 2000, and whose legislative and executive branches lost the moral high ground beginning in 2002. I’m talking about the high ground in domestic policy, Mr. & Mrs. Reader, as well as foreign policy.

A partial list of the problematic results of this moral mediocrity include Tibet, Sudan & Georgia (and Palestine). Also included on this list are (Saudi) Arabian oil arrogance and the T. Boone Pickens “plan” (where did he come from anyway so all of a sudden?). Topping the list are China and Russia (of Cold War era infamy).

Among other screw-up’s by the Bush administration are the invasion of Iraq. Worse than the invasion, however, has been the U.S. occupation & counterinsurgency. Not only should the latter never have been allowed to take place, but the British invention that the world likes to call Iraq should have never been allowed to take place as well…during the vacuum following the fall of the Ottoman Turk empire.

Likewise, the Bush administration screwed up when it went into Afghanistan and got bogged down in another interminable occupation and counterinsurgency.

At least in Iraq, Our Best & Finest found and eliminated Saddam Hussein. On the other hand, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are still at large…and worse…they are thumbing their noses at, and literally laughing at an impotent Bush administration and thus an impotent United States.

So…what do 300 million Americans (and the world of 6.5 billion) have to look forward to insofar as “leadership” is concerned at the White House in the Oval Office and the Rose Garden?

Why, a 72-year old standard bearer for the impotent republican party and the impotent Bush administration as well. Mr. McCain is so politically desperate that he is appealing to the voting block called the “stupid vote”. This is the only block that responds well to negative campaigning which is really much ado about nothing (except to the “stupid vote”).

On the flip side is a younger, yet inexperienced standard bearer for “change”, who hasn’t (as far as I know) even begun to see that much of the present domestic economic turmoil (and the half $trillion annual spending deficit…and $10 trillion debt) in the United States owes their origins to the reckless changes in the progressive tax structure passed by a democrat congress and signed into law by a heady republican president in 1981 and 1986.

I must say, however, that the younger possible successor to Mr. Bush got it right on getting out of Iraq (although he almost stumbled a couple of times on that one). Even though Mr. Obama’s 16-month plan may be trumped by a Bush/al-Maliki 24-month plan before the November 4th election…I believe that Mr. Obama’s plan was the catalyst for the Bush/al-Maliki plan in the first place.

OK Jack


Human rights are critical for world peace and should be a goal for all nations.

I get tired of blaming colonialism but I also want those of us living in the western world to look closely at human rights from another perspective.

We as law abiding citizens have lost our rights to the criminals and criminal courts. Victims have no rights but the criminals have protection beyond common sense.

As a recent example, our prosecuter wrote an article on how it is better for convicted people not to do jail time for variuos reasons. He frequently makes deals with defense lawyers to allow repeat defenders to have probation and continue to walk the streets.

No regard is given for the anguish and insecurity for ordinary citizens and most importantly their children. Their rights are lost to the criminals.

Now I ask where do you feel safer on the streets. China or the US or Canada. I feel much safer walking the streets at night in China because I’m more likely to be protected from repeat criminal offenders.

There is more than one definition to human rights. China should improve but at they are not ruled by laywers who are only interested in the rights of crinals.

Posted by buffalojump | Report as abusive

Here in the U.S., I never did understand why “world leaders” should boycott the opening ceremonies of the Olympics and then attend the sports events. Makes no sense. It would be wiser if all the “world leaders” attended, showing diplomatic courtesy, if you will, to China, and then brought up human rights issues. Seems to me that China is ready to dominate the world, regardless of human rights. Sounds like the U.S. and the U.K., over the last few hundred years, no? I think it’s better for “world leaders” to keep their foot in each other’s door, so to speak, to facilitate discourse about many issues, including human rights everywhere! Cheers and blessing to the people of China who are no doubt encouraged to smile and be subservient to all the tourists coming in……but I digress. Power to the people!

Posted by good day | Report as abusive

The towering hypocrisy, cant and disingenuousity of the the Western and other world leaders simply beggars belief.

However, China is still one the greatest places on earth that has very little palpable idea of what, and how important, human rights issues are.

Their extravagant playing to the gallery at the Olympics will and cannot ever make the world believe that it was nothing more than amazing window dressing.

China and it’s people are guilty of naivity or crass stupidity if they think for one moment their continuing abuse of human rights will go unnoticed.

Dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, China will have to concede to the demands of a 21st century world order where violence, intimidation, torture and abuse is generally considered as no way to treat anyone.

Let us all celebrate difference and herald in a new and permanent era for China, where a human rights charter is quickly adopted in real terms and for everyone.

Let China’s people be educated to expect and to participate in this new era, and therefore blossom into a gigantic land of the free.

It will happen!

Posted by The Truth Is... | Report as abusive

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