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Congress Using Olympics to Pressure China on Sudan


The U.S. House of Representatives already is on record urging China to put pressure on Sudan to end bloodshed in the Darfur region. Leaders on a key foreign affairs subcommittee said they hope to use the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games as leverage. Witnesses told a panel that China could use its economic clout to convince Khartoum to bring an end to Sudan's four-year conflict. Leta Hong Fincher has more.

Democratic Party Congressman John Tierney says that China -- as the host country of the 2008 Olympics -- could be the "lynchpin" in ending the atrocities in Darfur.

"Should not the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing serve as the catalyst to finally put to an end to the horrific, and unfortunately ongoing, tragedy in Darfur?” asked Mr. Tierney. “The images of the genocide in Sudan are forever burned into our collective consciousness. Four hundred thousand people dead. Kids killed and maimed in front of their mothers; mothers raped and beaten in front of their kids."

Tierney, chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, held a hearing Thursday on how to urge China to use its influence with Sudan to stop the violence in Darfur.

Witnesses included activists, Olympic athletes and a refugee from Darfur, Daoud Hari. He fled Sudan in 2003 after the government-backed militias known as the Janjaweed destroyed his village. "I also remember seeing how the Janjaweed killed the villagers. In one case, they dismembered the family bodies and put them in the village well to poison the water resources for the area."

Hari and others told the hearing that China, which buys much of Sudan's oil, should suspend its economic cooperation with Khartoum.

Lawrence Rossin, international coordinator of the Save Darfur Coalition, also criticized Beijing's close military ties with Khartoum, in spite of a U.N. arms embargo in place since 2005.

"The U.N.'s own panel of experts have reported that Chinese weapons, aircraft, trucks were being used by Sudan's armed forces and the Janjaweed to kill people in Darfur,” said Rosen. “Beijing defends these sales as legal but [human rights group] Amnesty International has documented convincingly that they violate the U.N. embargo."

Jill Savitt is head of a campaign called the Olympic Dream for Darfur. Savitt said her group is organizing an Olympic torch relay from Darfur to Beijing to put pressure on China.

"If there are ways members of Congress and members of this subcommittee can approach the Olympic sponsors, can approach the International Olympic Committee and say that they do not want the Olympics tarnished by genocide, that the Olympics host can not be complicit in an ongoing genocide," she told the subcommittee.

The Chinese government has voiced "strong dissatisfaction" to a recent resolution by the U.S. House of Representatives to urge China to pressure Sudan. Beijing says it has appointed a special envoy on Darfur and has made "unremitting efforts" to find a political solution to the problem.

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