Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tibet: Olympic boycott gains momentum

A proposal to boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics has gained support following reports of China's response to Tibetan protests.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Tuesday that the proposal is "interesting" and could be discussed by a meeting of European Union foreign ministers next week.

But China's ambassador to the United Nations, Wang Guangya, said Kouchner's views are "not shared by most people in the world."

Earlier Tuesday, president of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Poettering encouraged political leaders to consider boycotting the opening ceremonies if the violence in Tibet continues.

An international media rights group, Reporters Without Borders, also is urging political officials to boycott the ceremony. The Paris-based group accused China of breaking the promises it made when it was chosen to host the Summer Games.

In Washington, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Christensen told lawmakers the United States is not threatening a boycott. The official said the Olympics are an opportunity for China to show progress on human rights and other matters.

Also Tuesday, Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, reiterated his opposition to a boycott of the Beijing Olympics. He said the Chinese people should not be blamed for the actions of their government.

Hundreds of pro-Tibet demonstrators gathered Tuesday at the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, where they appealed to the committee to halt the Tibet leg of the Olympic torch relay.

The president of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, said not a single government has called for a boycott because of China's crackdown in Tibet. Rogge said boycotts do not work, and he said he is heartened that all major governments oppose a boycott.

Published with the permission of Voice of America