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Beijing 2008 and Tibet: The Orwellian Games


It's 1984 all over again, and I don't mean the '84 Olympic games in Los Angeles. China's recent behavior following Tibetan unrest and calls for the region's independence seems straight out of George Orwell's novel, with its "Big Brother," double-speak, and thought control.

When protesters disrupted the Olympic-flame procession in London, the whole world watched -- except for Chinese television viewers, who witnessed an absolutely serene, protest-free journey of the torch. Not a "Free Tibet" banner in sight.

Along with massive censorship and cyber-policing at home, China indulges in propaganda so absurd it would be funny if the consequences weren't tragic. Tibet communist party boss Zhang Qingli called the Dalai Lama "an evil spirit with a human face and the heart of a beast." Well, he also has a Nobel Prize and innumerable statements urging dialogue, non-violence, autonomy and human rights. Evidently, those are beastly goals.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu held a press conference on April 8. He stated that the Tibetan people enjoy "democratic rights," "freedom of religious belief is protected in Tibet," and "a handful of rioters and outlaws could not speak for the Tibetan people." Such claims may play well among information-starved residents of Shanghai and Beijing, but not in Peoria or Paris.

Democratic rights in the world's biggest police state, run by a totalitarian regime? The Tibetans are ruled by the Beijing government; they have no freedom of speech, political autonomy or self-determination. The "freedom of religious belief" line is equally ludicrous, and somehow it doesn't harmonize with Tibetan Buddhist monks being forced to attend "re-education" classes that (surprise) denounce the Dalai Lama and praise Chinese rule. And, that "handful of rioters" is certainly raising a ruckus. Similarly, according to the Apr. 14 international edition of Newsweek, when over 100,000 Uighurs recently staged a protest in Hetian in China, the city-government web site termed them a "tiny number" of people representing the forces of "separatism, terrorism and extremism."

From Orwell's Pocket Beijing Dictionary, 2008 edition:
Dissent = lies.
Censorship = elimination of lies.
Protests = terrorism.
Many political protesters = small band of hoodlums.
Totalitarian = democratic.
Re-education = freedom of religious belief.
Suppression = harmony.
Ignoring China's politics = undisturbed growth in global economy.

So, how far do we have to go to protect the Olympic spirit? Do we stage the Olympics in any nation, no matter how undemocratic their government, no matter how dark their human-rights record? Should the Olympic Games be held in Sudan, despite Darfur? Should they be held in North Korea? Could Saddam Hussein have hosted them? Or Idi Amin? If a nation similar to Nazi Germany (who held the Games in '36) appeared in the future, would they be acceptable hosts this time around? I think most people would say no to all of those choices. So why was China given the games?

The Olympic Games are supposed to promote "human dignity," and should be staged in countries that respect human rights and self-determination. They shouldn't be held in totalitarian nations with abuses of liberty similar to those in Orwell's 1984.