As China gets ready to take its place on the ‘world’s stage’ for the summer 2008 Olympics in Beijing, controversy continues to swirl around the country and some of it’s policies.
It was reported Wednesday that the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution asking China to end the crackdown on the Tibetan people and to end other human rights and environmental abuses.
Communist China’s control of the Tibet Autonomous Region has long been in dispute, as ethnic Tibetans and Buddhist monks have fought against oppression and severe treatment by Chinese forces for decades. In March, demonstrations by monks and civilians ended in violence and death as Chinese authorities cracked down on the peaceful protests. Many Tibetans have been imprisoned by officials and remain in captivity today.
The violence in Tibet is not the only reason China has made headlines in recent months. During spring of last year, tainted pet food was traced to Chinese manufacturers, and in December lead-based paint was found on toys and other products of Chinese origin. The failure to monitor output or to adhere to safe regulations within China’s rapidly growing industry leave many to conclude that China’s economic gains have come at too high a price.
One of the prices rural populations in China have paid is the serious degradation of their air, land and water. An article published by The New York Times in August, called “As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes,” illustrates the myriad ways that unregulated industry is killing the land and its people.
As Beijing grows into a modern city, millions of farmers have been left to work land that is so contaminated that cancer rates have skyrocketed and water from rivers and lakes is unusable.
The Times article reveals that officials and others of high rank have done virtually nothing to help the poorer populations in China, and done nothing to curb the severe pollution problem.
Economic growth at any cost (even at the expense of your own countrymen) means that consideration for the plight of those outside your borders is nonexistent. China has demonstrated this carelessness in their dealings with Sudan.
As Sudanese militia groups decimate populations in Darfur, China invests billions of dollars in Sudan’s oil industry and takes no stand against the atrocities committed there.
These and other issues have garnered worldwide attention-attention that China is trying desperately to turn in their favor-in time for the Olympics. The creation of 31 venues, plus marketing strategies that officials hope will appeal to a variety of people (such as an emblem for the games called “Dancing Beijing”), are some of the efforts China is engaged in.
As China gears up to host the Olympic games in August, human rights groups and other protestors plan to boycott the games, and some U.S. leaders are considering doing the same.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi helped to introduce the Tibet resolution, and senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama issued statements asking President Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies. At this time, it is not known whether or not Bush will attend.
Groups and individuals also plan on boycotting the summer games. The activist groups, Students for a Free Tibet and Dream for Darfur, have protested and held rallies to get their message out. While it’s unclear what a boycott would accomplish specifically, many people feel the need to make a symbolic statement, and a boycott can often be an effective tool.
History has shown that when people take a stand on issues of importance to many, ignoring the protests won’t make them go away. The American Revolution and the Civil Rights Movement both used boycotts as an effective means of organization.
China’s controversial human rights record and environmental policies cannot be swept under the rug (even though the Chinese government is known to censor media reports), as international efforts to break through the secrecy will only increase.
China should realize that changing certain policies is not a death sentence economically or politically and that changes could in fact lead to gains they didn’t know were possible.