Vietnamese torch bearer writes to IOC President about Paracels Issue

Le Minh Phieu
A Beijing 2008 Olympic torch-bearer
Ph.D Candidate at Center for European and International Documentation and Research
Post-graduate School of Law - Bordeaux IV - Montesquieu University
Avenue Léon Duguit, 33600 Pessac, France

Bordeaux, 7 April 2008

International Olympic Committee
Château de Vidy
1007 Lausanne
Attn : Count Jacques Rogge
Subject: Request to De-politicise the Beijing2008 Olympics

Dear Mr. President,

First of all, I am proud and delighted to inform you that I will be one of sixty Vietnamese nationals carrying the 2008 Beijing Olympic torch through Ho Chi Minh City on the coming 29th April 2008.

It is my great honour to have been chosen as a bearer of the Olympic torch - the symbol of olympism, of peace and of solidarity of all people in the world - which will be relayed in Vietnam for the first time. However, after studying closely the Planned Route Map for the Beijing 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Torch Relay published on the official website of the BOCOG, I find that the torch that I will bear is not the torch of pure olympism, but it is a torch of an olympism politicized by the the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (“BOCOG”).

During the course of its historical developments, Vietnam has established its sovereignty over the Paracel islands. When Vietnam was divided into two parts by the 17th parallel according to the 1954 Geneva Agreements, this group of islands, located in the south of the 17th parallel, belonged to South Vietnam under the sovereignty of the Republic of Vietnam. After the country was united in 1975, according to the principles of succession of states under international law, the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietam obtained full sovereignty over the Paracel islands.

However, in 1974, China with their military forces invaded the Paracel islands. All the military forces of the Republic of Vietnam defending this group of islands were massacred by the Chinese army. Since then, the State of the Republic of Vietnam and subsequently the Socialist Republic of Vietnam have persistently demanded China to return the Paracel islands to Vietnam.

Nevertheless, China not only failed to return the Paracel islands to Vietnam but also demonstrated continual challenges of the Vietnamese sovereignty over these islands. China has constructed an airport on the Paracel islands, opened tourist routes to these islands and recently established the Sansha District to administer these islands. China is taking more and more steps to show their claim of sovereignty over the Paracel islands, the Vietnamese territory which they have invaded since 1974.

Even in hosting the 2008 Olympic and Paralymic games, China has not missed the opportunity to politicize the Olympic and Paralymic Games. Via the official website of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China deceives the world that they have sovereignty over the Paracel islands, an area which China illegitimately took from Vietnam in 1974. I will prove this to you through the following:

1. The Planned Route Map for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay (Appendix 1 to this letter) and the Planned Route Map for the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Torch Relay (Appendix 2 to this letter) intentionally depict the Paracel islands as a part of the Chinese territory. In the maps, all provinces, municipalities and regions of China were shown from the top to bottom by ascending shades from dark to bright. The Paracel islands (intentionally enlarged in an inset) are shown in similar colouring style while other areas not under Chinese sovereignty are not shown in such manner.

The world has thousands of islands and they are normally indicated by dots on maps of this scale. Some islands are not shown even by such dots on these two maps. It is therefore impossible to find a nonpolitical reason to justify why the Paracel islands alone are depicted to a larger scale and enlarged in an inset in such manner.

2. In the Planned Route Map for the Beijing 2008 Olympics - Detailed Itineray on the Chinese territory (Appendix 3 to this letter), the Paracel islands are also the only items which were curiously enlarged. The Paracel islands are therefore always depicted to a larger scale and enlarged in an inset. The inset, if clicked upon, is even further enlarged, showing the map of the Paracel islands with a caption « South China Sea Islands ».

If the BOCOG does not wish to politicise the Olympic Games, does not wish to take advantage of the official website of the BOCOG to tell the world that China has sovereignty over the Paracel islands, why would the map of the Olympic torch relay contain the above mentioned features?

According to Rule 51 entitled «Advertising, Demonstrations, Propaganda » of the Olympic Charter effective from 07 July 2007 (available at, ‘no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas”.

During one of your speeches on radio France 24, you referred to the above rule and stated that any athlete using the Beijing Olympics as a political forum would be punished.

In a press conference with the British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett on 18 May 2007, the Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs also criticised the politicisation of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Thus, the politicisation of the Olympics was not only recognised in the Olympic Charter but also quoted by you, the head of the International Olympic Committee and the Chinese Foreign Minister.

But, the BOCOG can not be exempted from the duty to de-politicise the Olympics. The use of their website to politicise and disseminate their political agenda as explained above is inconsistent with the atheletic spirit of the Olympics, goes against the statements made by you and the Chinese Foreign Minister on the media and, particularly, a breach of the Olympic Charter.

Pursuant to Rule 2 of the Olympic Charter (Mission and Role of the International Olympic Committee) and Rule 36.3 (the composition of the Executive Body of the Olympic Organising Committee), the International Olympic Committee headed by you must be partly responsible for the above act of politicisation.

Therefore, I am writing to request that you take actions to procure that the above politicisation be ceased, by requesting the 2008 Beijing Olympic Organising Committee to take specific steps including, but not limited to:

- Removing the graphical details showing the Chinese sovereignty over the Paracel islands on all maps posted on the official website of the BOCOG.

In my goodwill, I believe that such action, if carried out, will clearly evidence the real depolitical attitude of the International Olympic Committee, the BOCOG and the Chinese Government. On the other hand, as long as the Plans Routed Map on official website of 2008 Beijing Olympic contain the politicising elements as stated above, the Olympic Charter will remain breached and all appeals for depoliticisation in a political situation challenging the Beijing 2008 Olmpic as currently exists, will lack conviction.

For transparency, I would like to inform you that this letter will be copied and distributed to the media in the world and released to the public. May I draw your attention to the fact that not only me, but also the media and the public will be waiting for your response and action. I also confirm that the content of this letter shows only my personal views and does not represent the views of any other individual, agency, organisation or government of any nation.

While I await your reply and action, may I convey to you my best wishes.

Yours sincerely,

Le Minh Phieu

Appendix 1
The Planned Route Map for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay on the official website of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Organising Committee

Appendix 2
Planned Route Map for the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Torch Relay published on the official website of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Organising Committee

Appendix 3
The 2008 Olympic torch relay map (enlarged) published on the official website of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Organising Committee

Source: Le Minh Phieu Blog


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