China's dilemma

  • July 24, 2008

{mosimage}When the 2008 Summer Olympic Games finally kick off in Beijing Aug. 8, we can all hope the Olympians will get the attention they deserve as some of the world’s top athletes. Until then, it’s all about China and the picture isn’t pretty.

Like all Olympic hosts, China has been using its global stage to present a shiny new face to the world. So, if Beijing’s heavy pollution threatens to scare off athletes who need to breathe clean air, they’ll ban most traffic and shut down factories. In the last few weeks, Chinese commuters (all with happy faces, according to state-sanctioned media) have been delayed for hours as they attempt to get to and from work on the overcrowded public transit system.

If it threatens to rain, China’s authorities will blast the clouds with various substances in the hopes of drying them up. News reports say the “bureau of weather modification” has some 4,000 rocket launchers and 7,000 antiaircraft guns used to whip the weather into line.

If people threaten to complain about human rights, they’ll just be arrested and thrown in jail for a week or two — far away from the prying eyes of the global media. Numerous human rights advocacy groups have reported widespread arrests of various peoples, including Tibetans and Uyghurs, migrant workers, social activists and Africans, whom the authorities deem to be trouble makers.

Speaking of the media, if they ask too many uncomfortable questions, the authorities just restrict their freedom and limit where they can go and who they can talk to.

In the last few months, China’s efforts to sell an image of a prosperous, free and open regime have been repeatedly exposed to be false, draconian and even violent. Instead of having the intended result, its ham-fisted attempts have revealed the true colours of the Communist regime. And they are not worthy of the wonderful Chinese people: China’s government remains the single largest oppressor of human rights in the world; its track record in Tibet is shameful and its openness to democracy remains largely illusional. Religious freedom is tightly restricted and press freedom also remains precarious.

This is not to say that China has not evolved. Its economic growth is truly miraculous and, though the rapid rate of change has wrought plenty of hardship, there is no denying that the Chinese economy is creating economic opportunity and wealth for many who once lived in poverty. Similarly, the growth of community (something that long evaded the frenzied efforts of the Communists) has been remarkably evident, as seen as the compassionate response to this past spring’s earthquake in Sichuan, where more than 71,000 people were reported either dead or missing.

We should pray that the Chinese people will rise above their own government to give the world’s athletes a proper welcome at the Olympic Games. And, in so doing, develop an insatiable appetite for true human rights.

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