Olympic-sized dissent

Protests against Chinese rule of Tibet began March 10 and have escalated into violent revolts resulting in the lockdown of the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. Violence has since spilled over into neighbouring Chinese provinces and spread on Monday to China’s capital city, Beijing.

Varying reports puts the estimated death toll as high as 80.

The international community has expressed concerns about Beijing playing host to the 2008 Summer Olympics, with the kick-off ceremonies set to begin in a few weeks. China has alleged the Dalai Lama is trying to ruin the global sporting event.

Claims that China’s treatment of Tibet will profoundly affect the upcoming Olympics are unfounded. Turning the event into a political pawn is the wrong way to go about resolving the country’s human rights problems. It wouldn’t take a genius to predict that the Olympic bid wouldn’t erase China’s treatment of its political foes, and if the International Olympic Committee made Beijing the Games’ host with that in mind, they’re sadly deluded. If anything, pressure surrounding the Games has propelled China to crack down further on sources of dissent.

The Olympics have put China and its human rights violations in the spotlight. It’s too bad the global community doesn’t take notice of the complex issues this country faces when there isn’t an impending international sporting event.

Western countries’ muted condemnation has essentially hit China with a slap on the wrist—a blow that won’t have nearly the same effects as trade sanctions would. As significant importers of Chinese goods, the West can effect serious change. But so far, the closest thing to taking action has been negative press coverage, and little at that.

The Dalai Lama plays an integral role in this situation’s outcome, but has expressed frustration with the ongoing violence. On Tuesday, Tibet’s leader threatened to resign if the situation continues to spiral out of control.

Although his vexation is understandable, the last thing Tibet’s people need right now is an unwilling leader.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and the Dalai Lama should both have interests in resolving this issue quickly and with as little violence as possible. In the meantime, the global community has a responsibility to encourage peaceful negotiations and quell the brutal violence and unrest.

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