A group of Tibetan monks has managed to disrupt a trip by foreign journalists to Lhasa, one carefully-orchestrated by China. The monks shouted that there was no freedom at all in Tibet and urged the journalists, who were quickly led away, not to believe anything they were told officially. Meanwhile, US President George W Bush has urged Beijing to engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama. While French President Sarkozy has joined a growing number of European politicians considering boycotting the opening ceremony of the August Olympic Games in Beijing. Not everybody is in favour of a boycott however -- especially not Chinese citizens on the street.
Calls for an Olympic boycott are getting louder
All over the world, the voices calling on China to enter dialogue with the Dalai Lama over the issue of Tibet are getting louder.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told reporters in Washington that Tibet’s spiritual head was an ideal dialogue partner for the Chinese authorities given “his belief in non-violence, his stated position that he does not seek independence for Tibet and his unassailable authoritative moral stature, not just for the people of Tibet but for people around the world.”
In Europe, some politicians have even gone so far as to demand a boycott of the opening ceremony of the August Olympic Games.
The president of the European parliament Hans-Gert Pottering said at a debate on Tibet and China in Brussels that “every responsible politician should pose the question of whether it is right to take part in the opening ceremony if the Chinese leadership doesn’t make an effort to move towards dialogue and compromise.”
But Elmar Brok from the German Christian Democrats thinks the boycott wouldn’t make a great difference and it was mistake to give the games to Beijing in the first place:
“For China, it’s a political occasion to show off and it makes sense to try to spoil their party. But to do this at the expense of the athletes seems wrong to me.”
Brok and others point out that previous attempts to boycott sporting events have not been very successful and there are other more productive ways of applying pressure on Beijing.
In China, people on the street don’t understand what the fuss is about. They are unpleasantly surprised about the whole boycott debate.
One man said: “I am very angry to hear this. The Olympic Games are a world-wide gala for sportspeople. They have nothing to do with politics.”
His views were echoed by a woman nearby: “I am very annoyed about it all. The international stage gave China the chance to host the 2008 Olympics. Now they’re breaking their promise and calling everything into question.”
Some media outlets and dissenting voices within China have welcomed the European debate about a boycott but they are few and far between. Generally, the mood in China is rather anti-European at the moment.
Experts believe that relations between China and the EU are at a crucial turning-point. The way the events in and around Tibet unfold over the coming weeks will determine which way they turn.