MADISON, WISCONSIN – On the eve of the Beijing Olympic Games, many human rights activists and observers continue to hope that the Chinese Communist Party’s embrace of odious regimes such as Burma’s and Sudan’s, and its oppression of Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, and Falun gong spiritualists, will lead democratic heads of state to boycott the Olympics, or athletes and spectators to demonstrate on behalf of the victims. I doubt it. The only demonstrations are likely to be those celebrating China’s massive gold medal count.
No one should underestimate China’s will and capacities, especially when it sets its collective mind on a goal. China is a budding superpower that has amassed the largest foreign exchange reserves in the world. No major government will risk retaliation by insulting the Chinese regime with a boycott or public protest. Indeed, France has already dispatched representatives to Beijing to apologize for supporting the Dalai Lama, and for the protests that took place during the Olympic torch relay in Paris.
From Seoul to Sydney to San Francisco, citizens in democracies were angered at how Chinese visitors bullied into silence powerless Tibetans demanding minimal rights on behalf of their brethren in authoritarian China. But the reality is that the Chinese regime has largely neutralized the
international human rights movement. In the wake of the Sichuan earthquake, criticism of China will be even more muted.