China must be held to account before Olympics

A 13-year old Sudanese child witnessed a rebel soldier being first shot in the arm,
then executed by gunshots to the groin. (Sudan Watch)

Film mogul Steven Spielberg made the most rattling move so far for the Communist Chinese government by pulling out as artistic advisor to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. His objection: Beijing’s complicity in the genocide going on in Darfur, Sudan. This was by no means an unexpected move. He had urged China as far back as April last year to do more to press for change in Darfur.

Spielberg’s announcement came on the same day that nine Nobel Peace Prize laureates — including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel and Jody Williams — sent a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao urging China to uphold Olympic ideals by pressing Sudan to stop atrocities in Darfur.

I fully support Spielberg’s move. The PRC government must be held to account for its human rights abuses not just within its borders, but outside as well. Darfur is just one in a long string of human rights abuses which date back to the founding of the Communist state.

In more than four years of conflict in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes. Just last Friday, Sudan’s government attacked three towns in Darfur, forcing about 200,000 people from their homes and leading thousands to flee into neighboring eastern Chad.

Closer to home, we are all aware of the role that China has played in propping up the Myanmar generals who are responsible for killing thousands of their own people and dragging their country down into an economic abyss. Not to mention their jailing of responsible journalists like The Straits Times’ Ching Cheong over trumped up charges, and not even giving him the benefit of an open trial to present his case.

China is trying to use the Olympics to show their world that they have arrived, that they are a superpower to be reckoned with, when their dismal human rights record clearly suggests otherwise.

The world should seize this window of opportunity to highlight China’s contribution to the suffering in the world. I hope that in the coming months, international pressure will be be ramped up on Beijing to force them to relook at their policies. I have no doubt that Ching Cheong’s early release was in part due to the upcoming Olympics. Imagine what more can be achieved if more influential personalities like Steven Spielberg stand up and tell China’s leaders that enough is enough.


Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

3 thoughts on “China must be held to account before Olympics”

  1. What Spielberg did is highly laudable (and kind of predictable, given his extensive work with the Shoah Foundation). And while I am all for taking China by the balls, I am not so sure that the direct approach will work. As we have all seen, authoritarian regimes don’t tend to respond very well to confrontation or attempts to embarass them. Perhaps a behind the scenes approach, with some form of bartering, might have worked better?

  2. well how long are we going to use the softly, softly approach? China is not just any reclusive authoritarian regime like N Korea or Myanmar. They need the world more than the world needs them. In any case, Spielberg tried being nice by writing to Hu Jintao, but got ignored.

  3. Hi Gerald,

    Before we get all excited about Spielberg heroics, there are a few questions we need to ask him:

    1. When did Spielberg first accept China’s invitation to join the Beijing Olympics advisory committee?

    2. When did he know about China’s nefarious actions in Darfur?

    3. Did he already know about China’s actions in Darfur when he joined Zhang Yimou and the rest of the gang? If so, why?

    3. When did he decide to resign from the committee?

    4. Has he already decided to leave the committee (notwithstanding China’s action in Africa) and is now using China’s involvement in Darfur as an excuse to get positive publicity for himself?

    Life is full of questions!


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