"I am certainly not one of those who need to be prodded…"

Boycott China for torching human rights.

Published in the Daily Bruin

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Beijing Olympics must be boycotted. Some people argue that life must continue despite political turmoil, civic unrest, human rights violations or even war. In Viewpoint last week, Makarechi makes this argument for the Olympic Games in “Protests won’t bring peace” (April 10). He suggests that protesters like those in San Francisco’s torch relay “strip the Chinese people of a prideful experience.”

But how sound is that argument in the face of the other Chinese people who also protest the Beijing Olympics? He forgets that it is not from the private work of the “Chinese people” that the Olympics were brought to Beijing and it is not the “Chinese people” who benefit most, but the Chinese government.

In another article last week, Ben Taylor (“Olympics not all fun and games,” Sports, April 16) was dead-on in describing the Beijing Olympics as a “propagandist showcase for the Chinese totalitarian government.” If we all agree the Chinese government needs to make some improvements, then shouldn’t we all be affronted by their selection to host these prestigious games?

I was at the protest in San Francisco. The majority of the protesters were supporters of a free Tibet, but Darfur and Burma activists made a substantial bulk of those present as well. Several protesters carried signs and banners with messages like, “Another Chinese citizen for a Free Tibet,” or “China: Extinguish the Flame of Genocide in Darfur.”

Countering us was a sea of red with battalions of Beijing supporters waving enormous Chinese flags. There were times I thought a fight would break out, but the protest remained nonviolent. Some of the Beijing supporters were rude, waving their flags in our faces and calling us liars. However, many of them expressed disappointment and surprise. It was saddening to witness, firsthand, the result of censorship. For these people, the government was their press, their clouded window to the world, and hopefully for many of them, the protest brought doubt to their conception of reality.

The Olympics is a time of international peace and cooperation. It is a celebration of humanity itself. And to its host, the Olympics bear great honor. Four years ago, we brought the Olympics back to Athens. It was exciting to honor this ancient nation that had given the world so much through these games. That China faces not one or two allegations of human rights violations, but a record and a habit thereof, is enough to make one wonder how a country with a human rights record akin to those of Iraq and North Korea finds itself hosting the prestigious Summer Olympics.

As I stood there chanting in the middle of the street, surrounded by protesters, I found myself excited to be fighting for the people of Darfur, Burma and Tibet. I was moved by the utter honesty of their words. The ethnic Darfuris, Burmese and Tibetans were fighting for the lives of their mothers and fathers, their sisters and brothers. I saw the fervor and passion in their eyes; I heard the desperation in their voices.

The torch never came. I later learned that the torch bearer had been unceremoniously ushered into a warehouse. The torch eventually made its way through about a mile of residential road, but it was far from the fanfare the torch relay was intended to herald.

The Olympic torch sheds no light for those living in darkness but blinds others from seeing the truth.

The streets of San Francisco witnessed the Olympic spirit, but it wasn’t born in any torch. It was in the hearts and minds of all the protesters there. Darfur, Tibet and Burma activists bound together, joining each other’s chants and raising each other’s posters and banners.

We chanted together in one voice, in one accord, and we made ourselves heard.

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