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Boycotting Olympics does not work say French ministers

   PARIS, February 28, 2008 – Boycotting the Beijing Olympics in a stand to
improve China’s human rights record would not work as history has proved in
previous Games according to France’s Human Rights Minister Rama Yade and
Sports Minister Bernard Laporte.
   The duo in a jointly written piece in French daily Le Figaro said that
instead they hoped the spotlight being shone on China during the Games in
August would act as a spur to the hosts improving their record.
   China’s human rights record has come under increasing scrutiny as the Games
approach with their support of the Sudanese Government and the Myanmar
military junta being criticised by not only human rights groups but also
   China which is one of the closest allies of the Sudanese government and its
main arms supplier, has come under intense and sustained international
criticism 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 activists
are simply politicising the Olympics and seeking to ruin the event – Hollywood
Oscar winning director Steven Spielberg withdrew as an artistic advisor to the
event, after the Hollywood legend accused China of not doing enough to
pressure Sudan to end the "continuing human suffering" in the western Darfur
   "The lead-in to the Games and the event itself offers a unique
opportunity," the ministers wrote.
   "It can act as a launchpad to sow the seeds more deeply in China of law and
fundamental freedoms.
   "We can only hope that the Olympics in Beijing will see one of its benefits
will be human rights."
   However, both Yade and Laporte, the former French rugby coach who guided
them to the World Cup semi-finals in 2003 and 2007, insisted boycotting the
Games would not have the same effect.
   "Would boycotting the Beijing Games be the best manner to advance the case
for the Rights of Man?
   "Did the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games, by 50 countries including the
United States, bring down the Berlin Wall? Did it reverse the situation in the
Eastern bloc over human rights? Assuredly no! … This boycott (which was
actually more over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan than human
rights) gave the Soviet regime an easy pretext to justify their repression.
   "So we speak for all. For France, as with others, boycotting is not an
   "Take China at its word. Modernising a country also brings into play human
rights. Important progress has been made in the past decades, especially in
economic and social rights. However, there has been insufficient progress in
the matter of civil and political rights and freedom of expression."