millions of people gathered in Beijing to watch the opening ceremony of
the Olympics, protestors met outside of Chinese embassies in Washington D.C., London, Madrid, Paris, Stockholm, Rome, Berlin, Lausanne, and Ottawa to call attention to China’s gross violations of basic human rights.
Despite the international pressure facing the Chinese Communist Party
(CCP) to improve their human rights record, the CCP’s efforts to clean
up Beijing before the Olympics has arguably resulted in only worsening
the environment for perceived dissidents.
Joel Chipkar, a Falun Gong practitioner, asserted that
“They’ve already arrested 8,000 Falun Gong practitioners from January
2008” in preparation against potential peaceful protestors at the
Olympics. Reporters Without Borders released a report detailing
the beatings of two Japanese reporters on August 5th, and also
published a piece detailing the Communist government’s backtrack on
allowing broadcasters to transmit from Tiananmen Square. They also
provide a comprehensive list of the 30 journalists and 50 internet
users currently detained by the CCP in an effort to control free
The protest in D.C. took place at 8:08am on Friday to correspond with
the actual time of the opening ceremony in China. Though organized by
Reporters Without Borders, a group dedicated to preserving journalists’
free speech, the group was joined by protestors standing for freedom
for Tibet and North Korean refugees. The mystic religious group Falun
Gong held up signs with statements such as “Grant UNHR Access to N.
Korean Refugees,” “No human rights, No Olympics,” and “Stop the
Genocide Against Falun Gong.” The protestors also shouted slogans such
as “Free Speech in China,” “Human Rights in China,” “China out of Tibet
now,” and “Shame on China,” as cars driving past the colorful group
honked in support. Congressman Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI) also showed his support by opening the protest with the first speech of the day.
The protestors calling for freedom for Tibet were the most vocal in the
demonstration on Friday. China views Tibet as a part of the Mainland.
Tibet, however, claims independence and autonomy. As a result, Chinese
security forces frequently clash with ethnic Tibetans and Buddhist
monks from the fledgling region and on March 10th a significant Tibetan
protest turned violent.
The protest in D.C. drew a crowd that included a former North Korean
refugee. Human rights activists have long called for Chinese sympathy
for the poverty-stricken people seeking sanctuary in the mainland,
fleeing from the flawed and brutal regime in North Korea. While the CCP
did allow about 40 North Korean refugees to flee to a third country
just before the Olympics, the case was viewed as an exception to
China’s typical policy towards human rights groups. In an effort to
remain on good relations with their fellow communist neighbor, the
Mainland defines the émigrés as economic migrants and thus undeserving
of the international rights guaranteed to refugees. As a result, North
Korean refugees—if caught—are often sent back home.
China has spent billions of yuan in preparation for the Olympic games
and the country’s hard work was evident on August 8th. However, China’s
effort to improve its human rights record has proved to be nothing more
than a calculated act reminiscent of the opening Olympic ceremony.