Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Are you sure you want to support the Olympics??

China's torch relay wrapped up its 4-day propaganda tour of Tibet this morning after stops in Lhasa, Gormo (Ch: Golmud), Kokonor (Ch: Qinghai Hu) and the border town of Xining.

On Saturday, the torch was paraded through the capital Lhasa under virtual martial law with armed troops patrolling throughout the city and an unofficial curfew prohibiting people from leaving their houses unless they were among the carefully screened spectators invited to witness selected portions of the relay.

While it lasted only two hours, the Lhasa leg of the torch relay was an Olympic-size farce and China's most disgusting exploitation of the Olympics for propaganda purposes to date. Read SFT's press release denouncing China's Tibet torch relay propaganda and see SFT Executive Director Lhadon Tethong's video-blog on the torch in Lhasa.

Dancing Tibetans were on display in front of the Potala Palace and billboards throughout the city called on Tibetans to "Bless the Motherland, Joyfully Greet the Olympics." China's Communist Party Secretary of Tibet Zhang Qingli used the event as a platform to assert China's control over Tibet and verbally attack the Dalai Lama. Chinese authorities arranged for a handful of foreign journalists to visit Lhasa to witness the spectacle. In front of the onlookers and gathered reporters, Zhang took the opportunity at the closing ceremony to say "Tibet's sky will never change and the red flag with five stars will forever flutter high above it," and vowed to "totally smash the splittist schemes of the Dalai Lama clique."

While the journalists allowed in Lhasa during the torch relay were closely monitored and kept on a schedule that one described as a "humiliating experience" designed to keep them "busy and distracted from the real news," their reports are interesting and very telling of the current situation in Lhasa and other Tibetan areas:

- New York Times: Olympic Torch's Tibet Visit Short and Political
- Los Angeles Times: China parades Olympic torch in heavily guarded capital of Tibet
- ABC News (Australia): Tensions simmering with Olympic torch in Tibet (includes video)
- Globe and Mail (Canada): "Get on the Bus" (a blog entry about being on the official media tour)

One of the most startling reports is from Canadian Geoffrey York, writing about a tour of Sera Monastery, whose monks led the peaceful protests that inspired the nationwide uprising across Tibet. In the article, York writes: "Where are Lhasa's monks? A visit yesterday to the Sera monastery, the second-biggest Buddhist monastery in Tibet, found that its 550 monks had virtually disappeared from sight." Read the full article here.

Despite repeated appeals from Tibetan, supporters and people of conscience worldwide, the International Olympic Committee did nothing to prevent increased repression by Chinese authorities in Tibet, nor have they taken China to task for its crass politicization of the torch relay. The Olympic Charter forbids "political, religious or racial propaganda" in any Olympic venue. Besides adding to the suffering of Tibetans, China's torch relay in Tibet was a flagrant violation of the spirit and letter of these regulations and yet the IOC has said nothing.

Tibetans and their supporters around the world are rightly outraged at the IOC's complete betrayal of the Olympic ideals. The IOC has gone from being simply unhelpful to becoming complicit partners in the Chinese government's repression of Tibetans. Please express your outrage by calling the IOC Executives yourself. Click here to see contact information for IOC President Jacques Rogge and other IOC Executives.

Pick up the phone and tell them:

* It is outrageous that the IOC has allowed China to use the Olympics – particularly the torch relay in Tibet – as a political tool to dominate and repress Tibetans;
* As the Beijing Games approach, the IOC must do its job and apply the Olympic regulations that forbid political exploitation of the Games by the host country;
* The IOC must hold China accountable for the commitment it made to media freedom during its bid for the Games and press China to allow international media free access to Tibet.

We are relieved that the Olympic torch is no longer in Tibet but it is hard to know what the true impact of the torch relay's accompanying repression on Tibetans has been. We are continuing to build our efforts to shine the Olympic spotlight on China's occupation of Tibet, and preparing for the Beijing Games.

Please visit SFT's new Olympics campaign website at, watch our new Olympics video, and stay involved and in touch.

We will never give up... Tibet will be free!