TIBET, CHINA AND THE OLYMPIC GAMES: SOMEBODY'S GOTTA DO IT

 

Some people say Tibet is a great, legendary country that was invaded by Communist China 58 years ago, which resulted in all religious freedom for the local Buddhists and all political rights for anyone backing the Dalai Lama being suppressed by the central government in Beijing. Others say that Tibet was actually saved from theocratic feudalism by the People's Republic of China, whose brave troops took the country to prevent it from being invaded by India on behalf of the United States, and whose nice merchants have brought progress to a nation that was doomed to remain stuck in obscurantism forever.

 

Now the question is whether the repression of popular protests in Tibet warrants, a) a total boycott of the Olympic Games, b) limiting the boycott to the opening ceremony, c) taking no action and pretending everything is all right, as has the International Olympic Committee so far.

 

All in all, there is only one question worth asking in this context, or maybe two. Are the Tibetans any free to discuss the recent history and politics of their country, i. e. without ending up in jail? Are they any free to discuss how the world should react to the crackdown on public dissent in Lhasa? If you really want to push it to the limit, here's what you should ask yourself: If the Tibetans are not free to decide for themselves what their future should be, how free is the outside world to decide in their place, starting with a boycott of the forthcoming Olympic Games in Beijing?

 

Boycotting the opening ceremony, which is above all a political event, can and should be considered by all of the world's heads of state and government. That would be telling China that the rest of the world is watching and will not turn a blind eye even in the name of sport. On the other hand, boycotting the Olympic Games altogether would send the wrong message to China, i. e. that sport, or any other field of life for this purpose, can be politicized at will and so can human rights, which would render any future protests aimed at China suspect from the very start. Ostracism never serves the cause of human dignity. Change always comes with outside influence, never within a nation that keeps its doors closed to all outsiders (take North Korea). Celebrating the Olympic ideals in the world's biggest dictatorship might look a dirty job. It might even be one. But then, somebody's gotta do it.