Sarkozy uses Olympics to pressure China on Tibet
Nicholas Sarkozy stepped up the pressure on China over its handling of the Tibet crisis by warning he may boycott the Olympic opening.
BEIJING, April 7, 2008 - French President Nicholas Sarkozy stepped up the pressure on China Saturday over its handling of the Tibet crisis by warning he may boycott the Olympic opening, following fresh violence.
Sarkozy's warning, delivered by one of his ministers in the Le Monde
newspaper, came as International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge
said he saw "no momentum" for a boycott of the Games.
Sarkozy will only attend the opening ceremony if China opens dialogue with
exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and frees political prisoners,
French Secretary of State for Human Rights Rama Yade said.
China must also end the "violence" against Tibetans, Yade told Le Monde,
saying all three conditions were "indispensable" if Sarkozy was to be at the
opening ceremony in August 8.
The comments were among the sharpest issued by a world leader over China's
crackdown in what has become the biggest challenge to its rule of the remote
Himalayan region in decades.
But IOC chief Rogge insisted he had no regrets about awarding the Olympics
to China despite growing concerns about its human rights record.
"We do not see a real momentum on boycotts by governments," Rogge said in
Singapore, noting that he was however aware of such a discussion taking place.
"It is up to the heads of government to decide whether they want to come to
Beijing or not. It is not something in which the IOC would intervene," he
However, the IOC supremo acknowledged an Amnesty International report
suggesting China's human rights record was worsening and said it would be
discussed at meetings in Beijing next week.
And he said protests and freedom of expression must be respected.
Protests that began on March 10 in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, escalated into
rioting and then spread to other areas of western China with Tibetan
China says Tibetan rioters have killed 20 people. But Tibetan exiled groups
say 135-140 people have been killed in the Chinese response.
The death toll from the crackdown was before the latest outbreak of unrest,
in southwest China's Sichuan province in Thursday, that left eight Tibetans
dead, according to activist groups and Tibetan exiles.
China's communist rulers have been deeply angered and embarrassed over the
Tibetan unrest, as it has overshadowed preparations for the Olympics and
exposed other human rights issues.
Tibetans have been protesting over what they say has been widespread
repression under nearly six decades of Chinese rule.
The jailing of prominent Chinese dissident Hu Jia on Thursday for
subversion added to concerns around the world that the human rights situation
in China was worsening ahead of the Games.
But China showed no signs of backing down on Saturday.
The state-run Tibet Daily quoted the region's deputy Communist Party chief
as telling a group of influential monks that "reinforcing patriotic education"
was now a top priority.
The International Campaign for Tibet said the re-education campaign, a
tactic long used by the Communist Party, typically involved forcing Tibetans
to denounce the Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama fled his homeland in 1959 and remains a revered figure for
Tibetans, although China believes he is a dangerous figure bent on achieving
independence for Tibet.
China says he is orchestrating the latest unrest and refuses to hold talks
with him. The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner denies fomenting the unrest.
Such orders to denounce the Dalai Lama helped trigger Thursday's protest in
Garze county of Sichuan province, International Campaign for Tibet spokesman
Kate Saunders said.
China's official Xinhua news agency reported the incident late Friday,
saying police were forced to fire warning shots to quell a "riot" in which
protesters attacked a government building and seriously wounded one official.
Xinhua did not give other key details in its brief dispatch, such as how
many "rioters" were involved or why they had marched on the government office.
The International Campaign for Tibet, the Free Tibet Campaign and Radio
Free Asia reported that police had fired directly into the protesters, killing
at least eight.
Independently verifying what happened, as with all the unrest, is extremely
difficult because China has barred foreign reporters from travelling to Tibet
and the other hotspot areas and blanketed them with security.
Calls by AFP to local government offices, hospitals and religious bureaus
went unanswered or were met with denials of knowing anything about the