Accessibility links

White House Defends Bush Stance on China Olympics


White House officials say President Bush will go to the Beijing Olympics as a sports fan, and will raise U.S. concerns with Chinese leaders in private. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports the president's chief national security advisor says a boycott might do more harm than good.

There have been calls for the president to boycott the Beijing Olympics, or at least declare his intention to skip the opening ceremonies.

But Mr. Bush - who personally told Chinese President Hu Jintao he would attend the games - is not backing down.

He says he will go to the Beijing Olympics, although the exact timing of his trip to China is not expected to be made public until just before the games begin.

National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley says the president wants to use the opportunity to support the U.S. Olympic team, while raising human-rights concerns in closed-door talks with Chinese leaders. Hadley says that is the most effective way to bring about change - particularly on the fate of Tibet.

"I think, unfortunately, a lot of countries say if we say that we are not going to the opening ceremonies we 'checked the box' on Tibet," said Stephen Hadley. "That is a cop out."

During an appearance on the FOX News Sunday television program, Hadley said the United States has leverage with China, and the quiet diplomacy favored by the Bush administration can bring results.

"If other countries are concerned, they ought to do what we are doing; [and that is] through quiet diplomacy send a message to the Chinese that this is an opportunity with the whole world watching to show that they take into account, and want, and are determined to treat their citizens with dignity and respect," he said.

If President Bush does go to Beijing, he will become the first sitting U.S. president to attend an Olympics held on foreign soil.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already announced she will not attend the opening ceremonies. French President Nicholas Sarkozy has indicated he may do likewise. And the European Parliament is urging all EU members to stay away to protest the Chinese crackdown on Tibet.

Similar calls are coming from activists concerned about the bloodshed in Sudan's Darfur province, where China has a great deal of influence. American speed-skater Joey Cheek - who won a gold and a silver medal at the 2006 Winter Games - is involved with a group called Team Darfur.

He told FOX News Sunday that he does not favor a total boycott of the games, but would like to see athletes make their views known in Beijing.

Cheek notes that International Olympic Committee rules strictly forbid any blatant political statements by competitors at Olympic venues. But he said athletes can be heard in other ways.

"Specifically, I think our best bet, and really in an Olympic sense a legal bet, is to use our press conferences and our media," said Joey Cheek.

Cheek says any country that hosts the Olympics must be held to a higher moral standard - and that includes China.

XS
SM
MD
LG