REMEMBER TIBET? Only six months ago, as Chinese authorities cracked down on Tibetan protesters, there was widespread talk of an Olympic boycott by major world leaders. But as the opening ceremony drew near, all the major leaders keenly lined up in Beijing.
George Bush made a point of being there—the first time a US president has attended an opening ceremony outside the United States. Kevin Rudd was there too. Though to be fair, Kevin always said that his attendance wasn’t a question of principle, just “a question of practicality and timing”.
In any case, it is sheer hypocrisy for any of the world’s leaders to point the finger at China over human rights abuses. The US has blood on its hands in Iraq and Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay in its backyard.
We had been told that the Olympics would be good for human rights in China. But it is obvious that things have gotten worse.
In Beijing, Rudd declared that there had been a significant expansion of human rights in China since the 1970s. Really? What about the 8000 Falun Gong members rounded up a week ago? Unconfirmed, said Kevin. And Rudd reminds everyone that the Dalai Lama doesn’t want independence for Tibet, so Kevin simply advocates for a “better outcome for people of Tibet.”
Kevin Rudd isn’t really looking for a “better outcome” in Tibet. He wants a better outcome for the Australia-China free trade agreement and more “clean coal” co-operation. The Rudd Labor government has allocated $94 million to Australia-China joint activity on climate change, with $64 million going to “clean coal” technology.
While some of the media still highlights human rights abuses in China, the hypocrisy is on display at home. Channel 7 pulled the human rights ads that GetUp! and the Australia Tibet Council had paid to be broadcast before and after the coverage of the opening ceremony. Legislation banning protests at various Olympic 2000 precincts in Sydney is still in place. And the Chinese Falun Gong and underground church asylum seekers in Villawood are still threatened with deportation.
By Ian Rintoul