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Sunday, 23 March 2008

Tibet and boycotts

Jack P has blogged about Tibet, writing that people should boycott Chinese-made goods and suggested that:

If you know of anyone who was due to compete in the Beijing Olympics this year, ask them to consider what is more important: taking a stand against ethnic cleansing, or their own personal achievement.

Now I can remember the only really successful boycotts, of Moscow and then Los Angeles in 1980 and 1984, over Afghanistan. People said much the same about British athletes who went to Moscow, one of whom was Sebastian Coe.

This time though, the Tibetans, through the Dalai Lama and the Free Tibet Campaign, aren't calling for a boycott.

This year, the Chinese people are proudly and eagerly awaiting the opening of the Olympic Games. I have, from the very beginning, supported the idea that China should be granted the opportunity to host the Olympic Games. Since such international sporting events, and especially the Olympics, uphold the principles of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, equality and friendship, China should prove herself a good host by providing these freedoms. Therefore, besides sending their athletes, the international community should remind the Chinese government of these issues. I have come to know that many parliaments, individuals and non-governmental organisations around the globe are undertaking a number of activities in view of the opportunity that exists for China to make a positive change. I admire their sincerity. I would like to state emphatically that it will be very important to observe the period following the conclusion of the Games. The Olympic Games no doubt will greatly impact the minds of the Chinese people. The world should, therefore, explore ways of investing their collective energies in producing a continuous positive change inside China even after the Olympics have come to an end.

Here is his full statement about the Tibet events.

Instead, they say that they want pressure on our government and our Olympic authorities.
As Britain has become a fellow custodian with China of the Olympic ideal, Free Tibet Campaign is calling upon the UK Government to commit to a special initiative that will secure a negotiated settlement for Tibet and improve human rights in China before the Beijing Games of 2008.

"If our Government really wants to make Britain proud, it will back Tibet," said Yael Weisz-Rind, Director of Free Tibet Campaign. "We have no doubt that London is capable of hosting a truly great Olympics, but unless there is substantial progress on Tibet and human rights in China, the 2008 Games in Beijing will be badly tarnished."
Jack also suggest that people boycott Chinese-made goods, but recognises how difficult this might be.

The Dali Lama isn't calling for that either:
China is emerging as a powerful country due to her great economic progress. This is to be welcomed, but it has also provided China an opportunity to play an important role on the global stage.

I think people should be aware of the conditions under which much ‘Made in China’ imports are produced - they have been compared to modern-day slavery.

Organisations involved in this, again, suggest that protests be directed closer to home - to the British retailers who don't ask about those conditions as well as politicians who don't consider labour issues in trade relations with China.

The Free Tibet campaign has a number of ways in which people can get involved in some way, including spending your money on some lovely goods like this teeshirt over the web :}

Postscript: Jack P has responded to my post. To which I added these points:

From my previous work with Aboriginal people as well as past anti-Apartheid work, I do think it's important to take a lead from the people themselves: those you want to help.

Unfortunately, writing to your MP and/or Gordon Brown and/or the Olympic Authorities is often seen as boring. However this is what they - the Tibetan leaders - say they want: pressure at home. It's also, from my experience, part of the long-haul thankless process by which change happens.


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