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A Glimpse into China's Closet By: Dan Rabkin
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, April 14, 2008


On July 13, 2001 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that Beijing had beaten out Toronto and Paris for the rights to host the 2008 Summer Games. Joy immediately spread across the Mainland, first and foremost amongst the members of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC). Plans were being set in motion to “dump sand” at Tiananmen Square for a beach volleyball arena, the site where 12 years prior Chinese tanks rolled in and brutally extinguished a blossoming democracy movement. Seven years after the IOC’s announcement, the decision to host the Olympics is turning into a colossal strategic blunder that is “dumping sand” on China’s hopes of shedding its police state label.

To be honest, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) deserves a lot of credit. In the late 1970s the communist grip over the economy started to ease and the shift to an open-door and reform policy has led to a period of real and substantial economic growth. With the highest growth rate in the world, averaging about 10% a year over the last few decades, the PRC is rapidly climbing up in the world’s economic power rankings.

In light of China’s achievements, it is not surprising that they want to show their progress off to the rest of the world. However, does China really need the world’s spotlight shining into its closet -- a closet that has the skeletons of Tibet, “re-education camps,” Darfur, and Burma lurking inside?

Tibet: Since the Chinese invasion in 1950, the Tibetan people have been without a homeland of their own. Denied their religious freedoms (even having a photograph of the Dalai Lama is illegal), they are also discriminated against in every aspect of life: employment, education, business, and health.

Zhang Qingli, China’s top official in Tibet, said China will “fight to the death” with the Dalai Lama, a man they refer to as a “monster with a human face but the heart of a beast." And fight to the death they have: up to 1.2 million Tibetans have died since the Chinese invasion. According to exiled Tibetan leaders, 150 people were killed during the recent anti-China protests alone. An additional 1,000 protestors will be put on trial later this month.

In 1979, the Dalai Lama conceded on the issue of Tibet’s independence. What Tibetans strive for now is authentic autonomy within China. But the Communist State, which will go to all lengths to annihilate his “cult,” still sees the 71-year-old monk and his people as a threatening separatist force trying to tear the One-China family apart.

Both through resettlement (the transfer of millions of Han Chinese to Tibet) and violence (the incarceration and torture of Tibetans who express their political and religious beliefs) the PRC will stop at nothing to destroy Tibetans’ distinct cultural, religious, and national identity.

Domestically: Ever since 1949, when Mao Zedong proclaimed the People's Republic of China with the words: "the Chinese people have stood up,” tens of millions of Chinese people have lost their lives in the name of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the largest peacetime death toll in history.

In today’s “new China” things are not a whole lot better for those without CPC connections.

A judicial decision is still not required to send members of “banned organizations,” like the Falun Gong, and petty criminals to “re-education camps.” Your run-of-the-mill police force has the authority to detain citizens without charge for three months (a limit that is rarely enforced) or, more than that, to send them to re-education/labor camps for up to four years. Currently, hundreds of thousands of these “criminals” are being held in camps across China.

People are being detained across the PRC for exercising their basic rights to freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom of association.

Only organizations that are approved by the CPC can exist; all others are considered “illegal” and membership in them is considered criminal. Participating in public worship without government authorization, for example, is against the law; as is exposing children under the age of 18 to religion.

Censorship of the internet, books, and television is rampant, and according to the bureaucracy, all news coverage is required to be “80% positive.” Text messaging that is interpreted to “endanger public safety” is also a crime in the “new China.”

By the PRC’s own admission, millions of political dissidents, Christians, human rights activists, environmental activists, and others are languishing away in China’s prisons and detention centers (places where torture, beatings, and execution are commonplace) for simply speaking their minds.

Internationally: China is the main force propping up some of the world’s most reprehensible regimes. With the power of its UN Security Council (UNSC) veto, economic dealings, and arms sales, the PRC is a key reason there has been so little international action on the genocide in Darfur, Kim Jong-il’s devastation of North Korea, the military junta’s repression in Burma, Mugabe’s destruction of Zimbabwe, and Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

As Sudan's largest economic partner, major military supplier, and chief diplomatic supporter, Beijing’s complicity with Omar al-Bashir’s Islamist regime runs so deep that Darfur activists have coined the 2008 Summer Games the “Genocide Olympics.”

According to US officials, China also sells Iran over $1 billion worth of arms a year. It was a Chinese C-802 anti-ship missile (sold to Iran and then funneled to Hezbollah) which hit the Israeli INS Hanit battleship during the 2006 Lebanon War.

While the United Nations may be giving China a free pass for its activities (see Joseph Klein’s FrontPage article for more details), people around the world are not.

If the Olympic torch international relay, ironically titled the “journey of harmony,” is any indication of the things to come, then China is in serious trouble. Protestors have met the “flame of shame” at every one of its stops. In Paris alone, the flame was extinguished at least five times and the final leg of the event was cancelled. Things along the relay have been so dreadful that the executive board of the IOC discussed abolishing all future international relays in their meeting last Friday.

The “One World, One Dream” Beijing Summer Olympics were supposed to be China’s coming-out party; a time to showcase to the world just how far the Communist State has come. Instead, the PRC’s “grandiose bash” is doing nothing more than exposing the true nature of the Beijing regime.


Dan Rabkin is a Middle Eastern Affairs and National Security analyst based in Toronto, Canada.  He was Canada’s 2005 Governor General’s Medalist.  He can be reached at rabkin.dan@gmail.com.


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