Human right activists say they are disappointed with
President Bush's decision to attend the opening ceremony of the summer Olympics
in Beijing, China. The announcement by the White House Thursday is the
first confirmation of the president's plans to attend the August 8
ceremony. It comes despite calls from some U.S. lawmakers and activists for a boycott
because of China's human rights record and support for the Sudan government.
In an interview with the BBC on Thursday, Mr. Bush
reportedly said he views the Olympics as a sporting event.
Jerry Fowler is
president of the Save Darfur Coalition, an advocacy group that is working to
end the violence against civilians in Sudan's Darfur region. He told VOA President Bush has ignored the
appeal of many to stay away from the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.
very disappointed to hear that the president has announced that he's attending
the opening ceremonies, and we suspect that he's disappointed too because he
chose to release the news at the beginning of a three-day holiday here in the
United States, which is usually when you put out news you don't want anyone to
hear. In doing this he basically rejected broad-based bi-partisan calls from
activists and members of Congress not to attend the opening ceremonies unless
China is helpful in resolving the violence in Darfur, and so far they have not
been helpful," he said.
an interview with the BBC on Thursday, Mr. Bush reportedly said he views the
Olympics as a sporting event, perhaps agreeing with those who believe that
sports should be separate from politics.
Fowler said China itself had played politics with sports in the past by
boycotting the Olympics on many occasions.
sort the Olympics for political reasons in order to demonstrate their emergence
as a world power. So the idea that the Olympics are separate from politics just
doesn't make sense. And in fact, China boycotted the Olympics for most of the
second half of the 20th Century for political reasons. But more
importantly, we did not ask President Bus not to attend sporting events. We
asked not to attend the opening ceremonies unless China started helping being
part of the solution in Darfur," Fowler said.
said rights groups asked President Bush not to attend the Olympics opening
ceremony because it is blatantly political.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao reportedly said that boycotting the
Olympics for political purposes would not help resolve the Darfur crisis.
said not attending the Olympics opening ceremony would have made a stronger
political point about China's support for the Sudan government.
that the president is going now, I do hope that he would take the opportunity
to personally press the Chinese president in a very vigorous manner about the
things that China can do to be part of the solution in Darfur instead of being
part of the problem, which is what they are right now," Fowler said.
has in the past said that it had been pressing Sudan to end the violence in
Darfur. But it also blamed Sudan rebel groups for the violence.
said China has been Sudan's main arms supplier and protector at the United
facts are China has been Sudan's heat shield at the United Nations, protecting
the Sudanese government from any multi-national consequences for the violence
that they are responsible for. China is also a major arms provider to the
Sudanese government; it's a huge financial patron. So I think the record is
clear that China is part of the problem and not part of the solution," he said.
July the UN Security Council approved a hybrid United Nations-African Union
civilian protection force for Darfur. But that force has yet to be half
Fowler said his organization had
wanted for President Bush to skip the Olympics opening ceremony unless the
civilian protection force was fully deployed.