Beijing Olympics boycott still possible: Michael PortilloMarch 23rd, 2008 - 9:19 pm ICT by admin
London, March 23 (IANS) The strong global focus on China’s human rights records may yet end in the boycott of the Beijing Olympics if the situation in Tibet worsens, a former British cabinet minister has warned. Former defence secretary Michael Portillo, in a newspaper column published Sunday, also revealed that former prime minister Tony Blair used double-decker buses to block then Chinese president Jiang Zemin from viewing Tibetan protests during a visit to London in 1999.
Portillo said in his provocative column in The Sunday Times that although economically powerful China may have expected a trouble-free Olympic Games when it won the bid, it had not taken into account the potential of non-government actors.
“In the modern world governments are not the only players. Steven Spielberg, the film director, withdrew as artistic adviser to the Games’ ceremonies, remarking that his conscience did not allow him to continue while ‘unspeakable crimes’ were being committed in Darfur.”
“His decision has transformed the situation. In that moment, the Beijing Olympics flipped from being an opportunity for the Chinese government and became a threat,” Portillo wrote.
Portillo said that China may have been emboldened by the willingness of Western leaders to appease Beijing in the face of its economic might, but added that in democracies, positions can change, as shown by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s decision to meet the Dalai Lama in May.
In contrast, the London police treated pro-Tibet demonstrators roughly and double-decker buses were used to shield the protest from Jiang’s eyes in 1999. And in 2004 Blair claimed to have too many requests for meetings to find time to receive the Dalai Lama.
Portillo said recent events showed a boycott of the Olympics could still happen because of the unpredictability of democratic politics. Quoting the strong statements made by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, at Dharamsala, Portillo said, “Such outbursts had not featured in China’s ’script’ for the Olympics”.
“The Tibet bandwagon is rolling and every democratic politician clamours for a place on board.”
Portillo, who was once strongly tipped to become leader of the Conservative Party, said Tibet offers Western politicians an “agreeable opportunity” to divert attention from Iraq, Afghanistan and economic issues.
“The genie is out of the bottle and there is no predicting where this may end. All our politicians say that boycotting the Olympics is not on the cards. But that is for now. If the situation in Tibet deteriorates, pressure will grow to use the Olympics as a weapon against Beijing.
“If China continues to thwart western journalists in their attempts to report dissent, the hostility of the world’s media can be guaranteed. However, if it allows events to be reported, the protesters will seize their chance.”
As the Olympic flame travels through 135 cities from Athens to Beijing, it could ignite “a rolling programme of anti-Chinese protest circling the globe”, Portillo warned.