Column: Olympic Protests Valid


Earlier this week, protesters in Europe surrounded the Olympic Torch as it moved through Paris, causing the cancellation of part of the torch relay. The protesters put out the torch twice before it was loaded into a van.

Later that same day, in San Francisco, protesters scaled the Golden Gate Bridge and unfurled banners reading “One Dream One World” and “Free Tibet.”

On Wednesday, 6,000 more protesters were set to crowd the streets of San Francisco to protest the American portion of the torch relay. In total, the relay is an 85,000-mile global journey that is meant to build excitement for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

These protests come in the wake of a renewed Chinese crackdown on the autonomous region of Tibet and a crackdown on human rights activists across the country.

China’s extensive list of human rights violations includes the unlawful detainment of hundreds of activists, summary execution of thousands of prisoners each year and a ban on non-state-sanctioned religions. There are also allegations of forced abortions and the relocation of Beijing’s poor and homeless to the rural countryside.

One notable incident is the arrest and conviction of well- known HIV activist Hu Jia.

Hu was arrested and charged with “inciting subversion of state power,” and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison. His crime was posting an internet blog in which he voiced his opinion that the Chinese government is using the Olympic Games to try and make the world forget about human rights abuses.

It is a disgrace that the International Olympic Committee granted a country with such egregious human rights violations as China the right to host the Olympic games.

Its decision shouldn’t come as a complete shock, however. Past Olympic games have been awarded to the U.S.S.R. in the midst of communist rule, and to Nazi Germany mere years before the Holocaust began.

This year, while other Americans’ televisions are beaming images of the blazing torch, medal ceremonies and American flags into their living rooms, my TV will remain off. I won’t be watching one race, game or match of this year’s Olympics, in my own personal protest of China’s continued human rights violations.

Friends of mine have called me stupid, crazy, even unpatriotic in my refusal to catch the so-called “Olympic fever.” But is it really unpatriotic to denounce an event which China will attempt to use as propaganda for how far their country has come?

By watching the Olympics and buying into the message of progress being conveyed by their Chinese hosts, I would be ignoring the fact that China leads the world in executions, routinely arrests and prosecutes activists and has oppressed the Tibetan people for years.

I’ve also been told that I’m wasting my time-that I’m just one person out of hundreds of millions worldwide, and my own personal boycott of the Olympics won’t solve anything.

I’m resigned to the fact that neither NBC nor the International Olympic Committee will notice my solitary defiance, but at least I will be able to go on knowing that I did my part not to support a repressive regime.