- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 14, 2001

Beijing erupted in celebration yesterday. Fireworks and green lasers lit the sky as lion dancers joined ballerinas. The city had won its bid to host the 2008 Olympics. Validation was vindication.

But in Beijing, there was also silence on yesterday. Somewhere in the city, despair is infectious, hope an indulgence and days dark. Here, demoralized, imprisoned souls are paying for the courage to speak out. They may be democrats, they may be members of the Falun Gong or they may be Christians. Perhaps they are sorrowful, perhaps they are angry. Surely, here there is no jubilation.

But according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), their suffering is politically irrelevant. The games must go on. History must be made. Enlightenment demands it.

There have been a wide variety of Beijing supporters in the Olympic debate. Mitt Romney, chairman of the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games organizing committee, said recently "The Olympics are about building bridges, not building walls," adding "We should not build walls that block communications with other countries, even if we vehemently disagree with their practices." Unfortunately, it is Beijing that is so eager to build walls and surround innocent human beings.

Supporters of Beijing Olympics often waved the banner of engagement. But certainly, there are numerous ways of constructively engaging China through diplomacy and trade that don't entail bestowing honors that suggest legitimacy. Although it may be counterproductive to alienate China, it is similarly dangerous to overlook the regime's human rights record or lend it incongruent validity.

With all these reservations, the Beijing Olympics should now be viewed as an opportunity to hold the regime to its promises, both in terms of internal reforms and investments, and respect for the international social and human rights conventions to which Beijing has signed on. It will also be interesting to see how China handles the huge influx of foreign athletes and broadcasters, who will not like the strictures that will be imposed upon them. Thinking back to the U.N. Womens Conference of the 1990s, there is precedent for some interesting clashes between visitors and authorities.

In all, the Chinese leadership may find truth in the old adage that you must be careful what you wish for because you might just get it. The Beijing Olympics could be one such case.

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