The importance to the Chinese Communist Party of a successful 2008 Beijing Olympics should not be underestimated. The CCP will leave nothing to chance and for the Uygur of Xinjiang that could mean bad news.
The Games of the 28th Olympiad are finished, the athletes have gone home and the stadia stand deserted. Those great symbols of democracy the Pathenon and the Acropolis no longer look down upon the youth of the world in a celebration of all that is good in humanity.
The Athens Olympics were a resounding success. Staged in a country which gave birth to the "Olympic Spirit" the games were peaceful and a wonderfully example of the fundamental principal of the movement:
"Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles." Olympic Charter, Fundamental principles, paragraph 2
" has now figuratively been passed to Beijing, China to stage the games of the 29th Olympiad in 2008.
Giving China the Olympics was always going to be a gamble on behalf of the International Olympic Committee
(IOC). Not a gamble in the sense that the games themselves would not be executed to perfection but a gamble that given China’s atrocious human rights record, the IOC could, in the end, justify its decision.
The IOC conveniently ignored China’s historical human rights record by saying that the decision to award Beijing the Games would have a positive effect on her human rights situation by bringing China more closely to the bosom of the international community.
As Jacques Rogge, President of the IOC
said: "we are convinced that the Olympic Games will improve the human rights record in China".
This view was echoed not surprisingly by Wang Wei, Secretary General of the Beijing Organising Committee
when he said "We are confident that the Games coming to China not only promotes our economy, but also enhances human rights."
The importance of the Beijing Olympics to China and more succinctly to the ruling Communist party can not be underestimated. In terms of prestige, economic return and national pride it will probably be seen by future historians as being the most important event in Chinese history since Mao Zedong
came to power in 1949.
No other event since, save perhaps China’s first space mission, had or has the potential to satisfy China’s incredible and paradoxical thirst for world approbation. The Middle Kingdom
, one rung below heaven, has the chance through these Olympics to regain its position as center of the Universe.
More importantly, however, the Olympics affords the faltering and ailing Chinese Communist Party
the opportunity to justify its ongoing legitimacy in the eyes of the Chinese people and in doing so extend its "use by date’ for another generation at least.
Given the forgoing China’s and Beijing’s staging of the Olympics will not fail or, more to the point and most worryingly, it will not be allowed to fail.
Already we have seen a level of preparedness in Beijing not witnessed before in Olympic history. Even Sydney, which had a smooth transition to "Olympic City", was nowhere near as prepared four years out as Beijing is.
Such is the level of preparedness that Rogge was quoted as saying in a speech to the Beijing Organising Committee during a visit to Beijing in August 2003
"There is one question -- I wonder what the Beijing organizing committee will do
during 2007 (as) all of the works will be done (before then).''
This rush to complete the venues is but evidence of the importance the staging of the games is to China and the C.C.P. As such nothing, absolutely nothing, will be allowed to "rain on China’s Parade".
Potential Human Rights Violations
Therein lies the potential human rights tragedy that could unfurl in China as the CCP does everything in its power to ensure that the Olympics will not only succeed but succeed startlingly.
Will the baton passed to China by the IOC via Athens be used as a tool to bludgeon into submission the only possible peoples that could rain on China’s parade, namely the Uygur of Xinjiang and to a lesser degree the Tibetans? For they are the only possible clouds on China’s Olympic horizon.
International terrorism a la "al qaeda"
will not touch Beijing; she is respected too highly by anti American interests for them to embarrass her. In fact violence of any sort is unlikely to affect the Beijing games for even if the Uygurs and Tibetans had such a proclivity they would be unlikely to resort to such measures during an Olympic games for in doing so would damage their positions irrevocably.
But that having been said for the likes of the Uygur and the Tibetans the Olympic games in Beijing provides perhaps the last opportunity to bring their pleas to the world's attention for after a successful games, if they have failed to achieve any positive gains, their causes if not totally destroyed will be set back generations.
The Chinese government is acutely aware of this and the thought of demonstrations by the Uygurs or Tibetans, public exposes of the human rights violations perpetrated against them even the unfurling of an anti Beijing banner is absolute anathema to them.
These things, however will not happen, not because the Uygur or the Tibetans do not wish to try and reach the world with their pleas but quite simply because it will not be allowed
China, and more particulary the CCP, will use every method available to them, which does not draw more attention to their deplorable treatment of these peoples, to ensure the Uygur's and Tibetan’s silence, compliance and total submission.
Apparatus of Intimidation
How will China ensure that such "embarrassments" are not visited upon her games? Simply she will exert immense pressure on the Uygurs and Tibetans, particularly the former who are perhaps more recalcitrant of the two groups within China.
By pressure I mean seemingly random and "deniable" processes likely to go unobserved other than by those totally attuned to the Uygur’s and Tibetan’s plights. The message and its methods of delivery whilst being obtuse to the outside world will be blatantly clear to the target audience and that message will be "step out of line and the results will be dire
The process has begun already and in the case of the Uygur has been underway since Beijing won the rights to host the Games. For the Uygur the stage has already been set with more than a little help from "9/11".
Since winning the Olympics and especially post "9/11" the Beijing government has spent immeasurable resources in painting a picture to the world of the threat of "Uygur terrorism". From the United Nations through to the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation Beijing has sort to propagate the belief that the Uygur are a threat to both Chinese and regional security thus ensuring they are marginalised and, just as importantly, feel that they are.
As well, given the Olympics scenario, it has set the stage for Beijing to be able to claim, as they already do, that human rights violations perpetrated against the Uygur are justifiable responses given the dangerous situation in Xinjiang and the threat the Uygur pose.
If China imprisons or executes "Uygur terrorists" allegedly threatening the Games will the Olympic family or for that matter the world complain?
What then are some of the things we must look for to ensure that the Beijing Olympics do not become a human rights tragedy for the Uygur in particular?
: Already we have witnessed the use of shows of military force, a tool, as Taiwan will know, is often used by Beijing to intimidate those who upset her.
Not without coincidence China conducted two military exercises in Xinjiang in the Olympic month of August 2004. One was a joint "anti-terrorism" exercise with Pakistan
with a stated anti "East Turkistan" terrorism
theme to ram home to the Uygurs that they are friendless in the region. (East Turkistan is the historical Uygur name for Xinjiang and used by the Chinese to describe any dissent to Han rule. The Chinese official view is that East Turkistan as a country has never existed however they seem more than ready to invoke it when it suits their needs. )
The second, conducted in mid August, (whilst the Games of peace and brotherhood were underway in Athens with many a Han Chinese athlete mounting the winners podium
) was named with clear intent in its message to the Uygurs, as operation "Controlling East Turkistan
Militarily China will undoubtedly increase its military numbers and visibility in Xinjiang in the lead up to the Games with the express objective of intimidating the Uygur and passing on a strong message.
Increased Police Activity
: Police and State Security Forces as well will no doubt be increased, as too will be their activity of harassment of the Uygur people. From the roughing up and moving on of Uygur street vendors to random detentions and dubious charges, the Uygurs will be intimidated far from the eyes of an unsuspecting world.
Executions and lengthy gaol sentences
: These will not be overlooked or forgotten as a tool of intimidation despite their serious nature and potential for publicity.
In the last several weeks four Uygurs have been executed for "Terrorism" and "Violent" separatism and another 16 have received lengthy gaol sentences including life sentences. This is despite no incidents of any violence since 1997 and many statements by Chinese officials that Xinjiang is safe and peaceful.
These executions and imprisonments despite their magnitude and timing brought no attention from the world community other than the Human Rights organisations such as Amnesty
. As long as China can couch these actions in terms of terrorism a world so utterly disgusted with the idea of that concept will not notice or care.
: Bureaucracy will be used as a tool of intimidation. Forced evictions for example and runarounds for the most simplest interaction with Chinese civil authorities will all keep the pressure on and help get the "Olympic Message" across to the Uygurs.
Further Restrictions on Basic Freedoms
: As we move closer to the Olympics we may witness gross restrictions on Uygur rights of association, religion and travel outside of Xinjiang. Already suffering many restrictions and basic rights Beijing can turn the screw far more tightly without the world being aware.
Access to the Internet for example may unaccountably "breakdown". China’s reputed 30,000 internet censors could focus on Xinjiang bringing quick "justice" for any slipped word or perceived infraction of State Laws.
At the risk of sounding melodramatic it is not out of the question that Beijing could even engineer an "incident" or "incidents" closer to 2008. For example say a year out some major "threat" could be "identified" requiring of them, in the interests of the security of international visitors and press of course, to "lockdown" Xinjiang preventing all egress or ingress. The lead-time will give a suitable period for the international dust to settle if there is any.
Far fetched? Not when you really consider just how important these Games are to the Chinese Communist Party combined with their natural fear of what hundreds of foreign journalist sniffing around Xinjiang could find out and report to the world.
; The sizeable Uygur population in Beijing may suffer a similar fate to known dissidents each National Peoples Conference time or Tiananaman anniversary when they are leaned on by security forces or they may be " encouraged" to return "home" for a period before and during the games.
The world must not underestimate just how important the Beijing Olympics are to China and particularly the Chinese Communist Party. China, or the C.C.P, can not afford the severe "loss of face
" that would accompany any result other than a complete and utterly successful games and an equally successful Chinese Olympic team.
If we have any historical precedent here we can look no farther than the Berlin Games of 1936. Not only was the Olympics vitally important to German nationalism but also to the Nazi party’s position and prestige. This is not to say of course that China will embark on a World War but said simply to emphasize the dynamics of the situation.
The Chinese Communist party needs these Olympics. It will, if successful, guarantee that its authority as supreme ruler of China can continue on past what would have been its natural "use by date". If we know anything about the CCP we know that it places its position and survival above the needs or the good of the people it is supposed to serve.
The IOC and ultimately the world have taken a huge gamble on the Beijing Olympics. Not a gamble that it will be anything but the "best games ever" for assuredly it will. The gamble is in playing with the lives of 9 million Uygurs and 6 million Tibetans in the hope that a leopard will change its spots.
For the sake of the Uygur, the Tibetans, the Falun Gong, you name the numerous "at risk" groups, I hope they are right and I am wrong.
We have gambled with people’s lives; the price of that gamble must be our promise to them of our vigilance of their circumstances and our promise of protection.
Living in China