Monday, July 28, 2008 at 8:17 AM
Just months ago, China faced near-universal condemnation for its brutal crackdown on Buddhist monks who took to the streets of Tibet to protest against Chinese rule. Moreover, there was widespread belief that the outrage world leaders expressed would compel many of them to punish China by personally boycotting the Beijing Summer Olympics (or, in some cases, by ordering national boycotts).
Nevertheless, here’s what I wrote back then about this prospect:
The Chinese have nothing to fear. Because they are fortunate that any decision to boycott the Olympics will be President George W. Bush’s to make, not Barack Obama’s or Hillary Clinton’s. And it would be too hypocritical even for Bush to act indignant over Tibet – given Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and his myriad constitutional abuses.
Meanwhile, the Europeans – who would follow whatever the Americans do – wasted little time in expressing solidarity with China’s national agenda to ensure that no country boycotts these Olympic Games.
Therefore, I was not at all surprised that, after offering patently disingenuous statements about not attending, virtually all of the world’s most influential heads of state have now conceded that they will be making “command” appearances at the Games beginning next week.
However, even I, in my cynical state of mind, did not anticipate that the Chinese would utterly reject entreaties from leaders like President Bush to simply hold talks with Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, about according Tibetan monks greater autonomy. Yet, after offering uncharacteristically chastened statements about reconciling their differences, the Chinese refused to even meet with him.
Even worse, some Western leaders have made a mockery of their condemnation over the crackdown by heeding China’s warning against meeting with the Dalai Lama in any official capacity. In fact, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown appeased the Chinese by barring him from No. 10, agreeing instead to meet only in private at the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury. This enabled Brown to claim that he was meeting the Dalai Lama “in a spiritual rather than political capacity.”
And, reinforcing their hegemonic presumptions where this Tibetan leader is concerned, China felt emboldened enough to reprimand Republican presidential candidate John McCain for daring to meet with him in the United States last week:
China is seriously concerned… China is opposed to the Dalai Lama conducting separatist activities in any country with any individual and opposes anyone making use of the Dalai Lama issue to interfere in China’s domestic affairs. This stance is persistent and clear.
[Liu Jianchao, China Foreign Ministry spokesman]
Now, let the Games begin…
China’s Buddhist Intifada