China may yet avoid a boycott of the Olympics, but the violence in Tibet is focusing attention on the country's repressive regime. So far, the Chinese say violence has left 16 dead, mainly ethnic Chinese, but there are rumours that around 100 Tibetans have died. Both claims are impossible to verify, as the Chinese have cut off media access to the region.
The Chinese prime minister has accused the Dalai Lama of orchestrating the unrest; the Dalai Lama has condemned the violence and threatened to renounce his status as leader of the government in exile if it spirals out of control, says Thomas Bell in The Daily Telegraph. He also insisted total independence was out of the question, reiterated his support for the Beijing Olympics and stated his desire for Tibetans and Chinese to live "side by side" in peace.
International reaction has been disappointingly "tentative", says The Washington Post. Foreign governments have urged China to use "restraint", but many have rejected calls for a boycott of the Olympics. IOC President, Jacques Rogge, also argued against a boycott "without acknowledging that China is reneging on the commitments it made in exchange for hosting the Games". In bidding for the 2008 Olympics, Chinese officials argued that international attention would improve human rights policies. It also must adhere to the Olympic Charter, which promotes "a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity". "At the very least China appears to be violating these provisions."
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It is "wholly unacceptable" that Rogge is refusing to take a stand, says Wei Jingsheng, also in The Washington Post. If the Dalai Lama does resign, the prospect of resolving the Tibet issue peacefully will be even more hopeless. Rogge's unwillingness to pressure Beijing is particularly tragic because these Olympics are a "turning point in modern Chinese history": by inviting the world for the Olympics, China has been forced to show its true face, but only international pressure "will make sure it is the face we all want to see".
"China needs saving from its own atavistic instincts", says George Walden in The Sunday Telegraph. Beijing needs to find a "graceful means to give ground to the Tibetans, but grace has never been a factor in the relationship". A semi-boycotted Games would be a national humiliation, but whether China can refrain from force remains to be seen.
"Meanwhile the international stakes are rising by the day." If Tibet turns nasty and the Chinese smell foreign interference, "as a major international creditor their revenge could take forms that could further destabilise an already tottering Western economic system". The boot may be on the other foot, says Damian Reece in The Daily Telegraph. The Western firms that China wishes to trade with, who have already "bent under pressure" for new corporate governance and social responsibility standards, will be loath to have these attributes undermined. "Chinese companies wanting to do business with the West will face increasing demands to behave like the West, a more constructive outcome in the long run than those civil rights campaigners arguing for boycotts might imagine."
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