More than a cry for dead victims

By Dr. Pham Hong Son
Special to The Epoch Times
19 April 2008

Did any of the casualties in Darfur's genocide or dead victims of the recent Chinese crack-down in Tibet, and of the Chinese shootings in the sea around Vietnam's Paracel and Spratley islands, glance at the official website of the upcoming Beijing Olympics which contains the slogan: "'One World One Dream fully reflects the essence and the universal values of the Olympic spirit–Unity, Friendship, Progress, Harmony, Participation and Dream. It expresses the common wishes of people all over the world, inspired by the Olympic ideals, to strive for a brightfuture of Mankind"?

I am not certain enough to answer for the casualties in Darfur and victims in Tibet, but I am very sure that no Vietnamese victims would have glanced at the website because all of them were merely fishermen too poor to care about internet information. And could that flaw help their souls experience less suffering as they did not know that the authorities who devised those kind words also stood behind their death? No one knows.

There is no doubt that a growing number of people around the world, including several of the world's powerful politicians and celebrities, are acting against the upcoming Beijing Olympics, from delicate gestures to overt calls for boycott. Many see the recent anti-human rights-conduct of the Chinese authorities as the main cause for the heat in the current protest but a root-cause seems further away.

First it needs to be made clear that no one opposes the noble-spirited games of the Olympics. Most people can also agree that the pride and great benefits in hosting the Olympics should be shared among people around the world. So it might be welcome when such a big country as China is to host the Olympic Games. But history tells us of a rogue regime which took advantage of the Olympics to advance a sinister hidden ambition. The 1936 Olympics in Berlin under Hitler's regime was the case.

And now consider China's Olympics. China has had an ambition to dominate the world since it was newly founded. China is a casual name for the People's Republic of China which was established on the mainland by Chinese communists in 1949, as distinct from Republic of China (Chinese Taipei or Taiwan) founded by Chinese nationalists on the off-shore island. A China map presented in "Brief history of modern China" published in Beijing in 1954 featured China's borders covering large parts of the former orient and central Asia belonging to the former Soviet Union and the whole Korean peninsula, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Viet Nam. Cambodia.

Four years earlier China attacked and occupied the independent Tibetan state, China's neighbor in the west. In 1956, at the Chinese communist party central committee's congress, Mao Zedong, the communist leader stressed: "We must become a world's leading country in the fields of culture, science, technology and industry. It is unacceptable if we do not become a superpower in a few decades."

In the two subsequent decades, China made every effort to realize that ambition but failed by conducting paranoid-like programs such as the "Great Leap Forward", "the Four Modernizations" and "the Cultural Revolution" that cost dozens of millions of lives and the devastation of the natural and social environment. From the post-Mao period until now, China's hegemony seems less vocal but always firm. Deng Xiaoping, a successor of Mao, and regarded as the author of China's opening in 1978, uttered his philosophy in a proverb-like statement: "it doesn't matter if a cat is black or white as long as it catches mice".

This immoral philosophy has led China to economic growth of about ten percent p.a for nearly two decades regardless of the disastrous consequences to nature and society. The power of the ruling party has been enhanced greatly but it is the reverse for the people. A ruthless repression of pro-democracy students in Tiananmen Square in 1989 and the large-scale persecution of Falun Gong followers in 1999 are typical examples.

Military build-up

While newly escaping from the low-income list, China has invested a great deal in military strength. The defense budget was stealthily growing for years. Now China has already 2.3 million military personnel–the world's largest. The figure officially annnounced for the increase in China's defense budget last year was 17.8 percent, and for this year 17.6 percent, up to $58.8 billion; military experts estimate that the true figure is more than twice that announced by China.

The Chinese navy has been equipped with new high-tech facilities and is regarded as the strongest in the region. Seemingly to assuage the world's concerns, China has conducted a series of deflecting tactics such as taking limited part in unravelling international problems like North Korea's nuclear threat, sending troops for the UN peacekeeping force in Liberia, and a recent agreement to establish a telephone link between its defense department and United States. Those tactics seem to be bought even by Bush's administration except perhaps for the Pentagon.

We want to believe in China, but the fact is that China is expanding flagrantly its control and invasion over the sea and islands of Vietnam–the Paracels and Spratley which are important strategic positions in the international sea route.

We think about China's hostile behavior toward the Dalai Lama's demand only for real autonomy in Tibet; and China's ambiguous attitude toward rogue regimes in Burma, Sudan, Iran. So it is obvious that China's hegemony is advancing region-wide and what happens to humankind if one day such a violence-favoring regime grows strong enough to dominate the world?

And back to the upcoming Olympics. Although China had conducted a great deal of political and economic lobbying, one important but intangible thing which helped China win the 2008 Olympics hosting rights was the altruism of humankind. The right to host the 2008 Olympics Games seven years ago was preceded by the promise of China's leaders, implicitly and explicitly, to improve its own poor human rights record.

Tragic images

At the time the world, especially people in countries with a free-press which are also powerful members of the IOC, could not forget the tragic images of the 1989 Tiananmen Square, Falun Gong's persecution or China's abysmal human rights record...and it might have been sure that everyone hoped and expected the highly-ethical Olympics spirit would inspire the host country's leaders' toward a more liberal society. But so far the reality has been the opposite.

The attempts of China's leaders to make man-made wonderworks at any cost have caused fatal consequences. Until last month China's authorities did not recognize the lost lives in building Olympics facilities and the exact death toll is still unknown, not to mention the anguish of displaced people.

An irony for nature is that the Shunyi "water heaven" water park that can shoot 134 meters high, has been built on the dried-out remains of the Chaobai River, and many athletes are considering using masks in the upcoming games.

And as usual the authorities have been making every effort to silence any citizen who dares to address real human rights issues, as was the case of a recent 3.5 year-prison sentence given to a 35 year-old man named Hu Jia for his peaceful activism on AIDS and human rights issues.


This disappointing reality has just made those who had supported Beijing hosting the Olympics feel completely betrayed. And the recent Chinese crackdown, with some 140 Tibetan monks and civilians killed, only serves as an additional drop to a brim-full glass of indignation. Altruism itself feels betrayed.

Though Polish P.M Donald Tusk, Czech President Vaclav Klaus, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have refused to attend the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony on August 08; though many like Reporters Sans Frontières and the human rights activist Mia Farrow vowed to continue to protest; and though the Beijing Olympic Torch relay has been facing unwelcome attention, the final outcome has to be seen.

But one thing for certain is that the activism against the upcoming Beijing Olympics has been in the interests of a bullied people, including about 1.3 billion in China, and in the hope for a friendly and peaceful future for humankind.

Dr. Pham Hông Son, was born in Nam Dinh province, Vietnam. He graduated from medical college of Hanoi in 1992. In early 2002 he translated into Vietnamese the article " what is democracy?" that was posted on a website of the U.S. embassy in Vietnam. Sentenced to 13 years in prison in his first trial then reduced to 5 years in prison on appeal. He spent 4.5 years in prison and has been under house arrest in Hanoi since his release in August 2006. Author of many on-line essays focussing on political and social subjects of national interest. Defender of human rights, in particular rights to freedom of opinion and expression, and freedom of association. Honorary member of International PEN Centres (France, Canada and Sydney). One of the winners of the Hellmann Hammet Awards in 2003 (Human Rights Watch).

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