The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



China reaping what it has sown

Letters to the Editor | Wednesday, April 23, 2008

In response to the commentary titled Olympics Symbolize Peace (Apr. 18) I felt compelled to point out some glaring omissions and hypocrisy. The authors Yue and Lili take issue with recent protests associated with the tour of the Olympic torch calling the protests “unacceptable.” In the sense that it is unfortunate that this ceremony has been characterized by political protests rather then celebrations of athletic excellence, we both agree.

However, it is clear that the authors have no understanding of why China’s hosting of Olympic Games generates the type of political activity that we are seeing. In particular, I had a problem with the hypocrisy concerning their complaints about the media coverage and the call for the games to be apolitical. Yue and Lili complain about “some media coverage being seriously distorted.” This seems incredible to complain about given the wide-scale censorship that the Chinese government practices. Since the Chinese government strictly controls foreign media access to Tibet, practices wide-scale internet censorship at home, and regularly imprisons those who attempt to speak out it seems odd for one to complain about alleged “media bias.”

Another problem was the authors’ statement that “the Olympics are not about politics.” While in an ideal world this would be true, but reality paints a completely different picture. Berlin before WWII, the killing of Israeli athletes at Munich, and the boycotts for the Los Angeles and Moscow games clearly shows that politics are deeply engrained with the Olympics. To think because China is hosting the games that politics should be dismissed is na’ve. It’s ironic that the authors on one hand call for the games to become apolitical, but then make the argument that abandoning calls for a boycott will lead to China to open politically strikes me as extremely hypocritical.

In closing I agree with the authors’ sentiments that the Olympics should symbolize peace. However, when the government that hosts the games is complicit in wide-scale human rights abuses both at home and abroad (Darfur and Myanmar/Burma come to mind) then it becomes very understandable why some people feel the need to protest what they see as a gross misrepresentation of what the Olympics symbolize. I would suggest that the best way for the authors to achieve their goal of a torch ceremony and Olympic Games free of protests would be to pressure their government towards increased political freedoms and respect for human rights, but then I realize that is not such a good idea as many of the students in Tiananmen Square found out. So in the end the Chinese government has reaped what they have sown to the detriment of its own citizens and the international community.

Robert Brathwaite

graduate student

off campus

April 22