Boycotting Olympics does not work say French ministers
PARIS, February 28, 2008 - Boycotting the Beijing Olympics in a stand toimprove China's human rights record would not work as history has proved inprevious Games according to France's Human Rights Minister Rama Yade andSports Minister Bernard Laporte. The duo in a jointly written piece in French daily Le Figaro said thatinstead they hoped the spotlight being shone on China during the Games inAugust would act as a spur to the hosts improving their record. China's human rights record has come under increasing scrutiny as the Gamesapproach with their support of the Sudanese Government and the Myanmarmilitary junta being criticised by not only human rights groups but alsoathletes. China which is one of the closest allies of the Sudanese government and itsmain arms supplier, has come under intense and sustained internationalcriticism for not doing more to stop the years of civil conflict in Darfur. Beijing insists it is playing a positive role in Sudan, and that activistsare simply politicising the Olympics and seeking to ruin the event - HollywoodOscar winning director Steven Spielberg withdrew as an artistic advisor to theevent, after the Hollywood legend accused China of not doing enough topressure Sudan to end the "continuing human suffering" in the western Darfurregion. "The lead-in to the Games and the event itself offers a uniqueopportunity," the ministers wrote. "It can act as a launchpad to sow the seeds more deeply in China of law andfundamental freedoms. "We can only hope that the Olympics in Beijing will see one of its benefitswill be human rights." However, both Yade and Laporte, the former French rugby coach who guidedthem to the World Cup semi-finals in 2003 and 2007, insisted boycotting theGames would not have the same effect. "Would boycotting the Beijing Games be the best manner to advance the casefor the Rights of Man? "Did the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games, by 50 countries including theUnited States, bring down the Berlin Wall? Did it reverse the situation in theEastern bloc over human rights? Assuredly no! ... This boycott (which wasactually more over the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan than humanrights) gave the Soviet regime an easy pretext to justify their repression. "So we speak for all. For France, as with others, boycotting is not anoption. "Take China at its word. Modernising a country also brings into play humanrights. Important progress has been made in the past decades, especially ineconomic and social rights. However, there has been insufficient progress inthe matter of civil and political rights and freedom of expression."