Paracel Islands Dispute: China's Olympic Hypocrisy

Torch Passing through the Paracel Islands:
China’s Politicizing of the Olympics

Le Duc

In the face of international criticism linking the Beijing Olympics with China’s human rights records and its role in Darfur, Myamar, and a host of other countries, China continually tries to respond by asserting that politics should not be brought into the Olympics. Nevertheless, China itself does not hesitate to politicize the Olympics by its very own actions with respect to the issue of the territorial dispute between China and Vietnam.

While the issue over China’s illegal seizure of Vietnam’s Paracel Islands in the South China Sea since 1974 has not been resolved, China attempts to utilize the Olympics in order to publicize to the world its ownership of the Paracel Islands by including an enlarged and boxed off map of the archipelago in all its torch route maps.

China has further tried to “stick it in the face” for Vietnam by having the torch pass through the Paracel Islands on its way to Ho Chi Minh City in April. Normally, when the torch passes through any particular country, permission needs to be granted from that country for this to occur. In the case of Taiwan, which China claims as part of Chinese territory, the Taiwanese government refused to grant permission for the torch to enter Taiwan for fear that China was capitalizing on the Olympics to make its political claims over the islands. As a result, Taipei had to be erased from the map of destinations through which the torch will pass.

In the case of the Paracel Islands, taking advantage of the upper hand in its relationships with Vietnam, China has decided unilaterally to have the torch pass through the archipelago as a matter of national issue, despite the fact that Vietnam has never given up on its claims of rightful ownership to the islands, and are prepared with all the necessary historical and juridical evidence to show that such claims are well-founded.

In reality, the Paracel Islands are very small. If the islands were depicted proportional to the rest of the map, the islands would not be visible at all. But the fact that China has magnified the islands and boxed them off in all its maps indicates its intention to make territorial claims by way of the Olympics, which smacks of politicizing the sports festival.

The issue of the Paracel Islands again demonstrates to the world China’s hypocrisy when it comes to what it says and what it does. Therefore, anyone who desires to make use of the occasion of the Olympics to call attention to China’s activities, whether it be human rights, Darfur, Tibet, or South China Sea, can do so without being afraid that they are politicizing the Olympics, because the host nation has already done so before anyone else.


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