President Bush believes it will be better to be “calling on” China to reach out and work with dissident factions such as supporters of the Dali Lama rather than give in to growing pressure to formally protest that nation’s human rights abuses by boycotting the opening ceremonies of this year’s Beijing Olympic Games, according to a spokeswoman.
Following up on an announcement by Bill Donohoe, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, that Sen. Hillary Clinton is right to suggest such a boycott because of China’s record, Les Kinsolving, WND’s correspondent at the White House, asked about the possibility of such plans.
“Since we presume the president is as devoted to human rights as any world leader, why has he failed to join the president of France, the chancellor of Germany, and now the prime minister of Canada in their announced refusal to appear at China’s Olympic Games?” he asked at today’s news briefing.
“I actually don’t think that they have announced that they are going to do that. I think they announced that they are considering it,” said Dana Perino, the White House spokeswoman at the briefing.
“It’s been reported that they have,” Kinsolving clarified.
“That’s not exactly true, Les. The president’s position on this has been very clear. But the key part of what the president can do as the president of the United States is before, during and after the Olympics, push very hard for increased human rights, press freedoms, and political freedom in China,” she said.
In a second question, Kinsolving then asked, “In New York, attorney Bill Donohoe, who is the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said yesterday, ‘China can’t pretend to be religion-friendly while routinely censoring religious liberty. Sen. Clinton gets it just right when she urges President Bush to boycott the opening ceremony, saying ‘Americans will stand strong in support of freedom of religion and…” Kinsolving began.
“What’s your question?” Perino said.
“…political expression and human rights.’ And my question…” Kinsolving continued.
“Question?” Perino said.
“…does the president believe that both the Catholic League and Sen. Clinton are wrong to make such a request?”
Said Perino, “No, they can make any request that they want. But I just told you what the president’s position is.”
Other reporters then followed up on the issue of the Olympics.
“Can I just follow on the Olympics, since you said the president’s position has been clear? Is he attending the opening ceremonies then?” one reporter asked.
“We haven’t provided any schedules on the president’s trip,” Perino said.
“There’s doubt about it then, right?” the reporter continued.”…does that leave the door open to the president not attending the opening ceremonies, but attending some of the games to support the athletes?”
“I wouldn’t put it that way, no,” said Perino.
“Is the decision to attend the Olympics irreversible, or might it be affected be developments,” the reporter continued.
“Any time the president – the president can always make a change. But the president has been clear that this is a sporting event for the athletes, and that pressuring China before, during and after the Olympics is the best way for us to try to help people across the board in China, not just Tibetans. And we are calling on the Chinese to reach out to the Dalai Lama, or to have – or to reach out to the Dalai Lama’s supporters and people, as they used to have a dialogue and we think that that was quite useful, and we are encouraging them to do that again,” she said.
“Wouldn’t it be a better plan…,” Kinsolving interjected.
“You had two questions,” Perino advised.
“…if he pulled out? Wouldn’t that be a good protest?” Kinsolving finished.
A third reporter then stepped in.
“I just wanted to be specific. Is it being considered to attend the games and skip the opening ceremony? Is that under consideration?” he said.
“I would not put it that way, no,” Perino said.
“You would not put it that way that it’s even being considered?” the reporter asked.
“I would not put it that way,” Perino said.
And yet another reporter asked about the “worst-case scenario” that could prevent the president from going.
“I don’t think that that’s a question that I can answer from the podium. I think speculation on worst-case scenarios are better left to people other than me,” Perino said.
Just 24 hours earlier, Donohoe said it would be “quite proper” to use the symbolism of the opening ceremonies “to drive home a much-needed message: China can’t pretend to be religion friendly while routinely censoring religious liberty.”
“Sen. Clinton gets it just right when she urges President Bush to boycott the opening ceremony, saying, ‘Americans will stand strong in support of freedom of religion and political expression and human rights.'”
Also one day earlier, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said there won’t be any U.S. protests at the Beijing Games over China’s human rights violations, which range from the destruction of homes in the way of Olympic construction projects to the detention of those who have a religion not approved by the government.
In a Washington Post editorial written by Hu Jia and Teng Biao in recent days, they noted Hu Jia is facing 42 months in prison for “subverting state authority” because he co-authored, with Teng Biao, an “open letter on human rights.”
They continued: “On July 13th, 2001, when Beijing won the right to host the 2008 Olympic Games, the Chinese government promised the world it would improve China’s human rights record … Is Beijing keeping its promises?”
“When you come to the Olympic Games in Beijing, you will see skyscrapers, spacious streets, modern stadiums and enthusiastic people. You will see the truth, but not the whole truth, just as you see only the tip of an iceberg. You may not know that the flowers, smiles, harmony and prosperity are built on a base of grievances, tears, imprisonment, torture and blood,” the editorial continued.
“We are going to tell you the truth about China. We believe that for anyone who wishes to avoid a disgraceful Olympics, knowing the truth is the first step. Fang Zheng, an excellent athlete who holds two national records for the discus throw at China’s Special Sport Games, has been deprived of the opportunity to participate in the 2008 Paralympics because he has become a living testimony to the June 4, 1989[,] massacre. That morning, in Tiananmen Square, his legs were crushed by a tank while he was rescuing a fellow student. In April 2007, the Ministry of Public Security issued an internal document secretly strengthening a political investigation which resulted in forbidding Olympics participation by 43 types of people from 11 different categories, including dissidents, human rights defenders, media workers, and religious participants. The Chinese police never made the document known to either the Chinese public or the international community,” the two continued.
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