- The Washington Times - Monday, July 9, 2001

For any athlete who is training now to win in the Olympics 2008, there will be more to think of during practice for the next seven years than just physical fitness. Polluted air, bad roads and bugged hotel rooms equipped with video cameras could provide the proud athletes' welcome if their destination in Beijing. Not to mention the cases of disappearing citizens who go to China on holiday or for a business trip and end up hostages of the Chinese government.

It was mainly for the latter reason that the European Union's Parliament passed a resolution late Thursday that said Beijing's bid was "inappropriate" and that it was "unsuitable" for the games due to its "disastrous record on human rights." Beijing has promised a list of reforms if it manages to trump Paris, Toronto, Osaka and Istanbul when the International Olympic Committee makes its decision this Friday. Among the reforms the Chinese government would implement: Creating an 1,800-acre "Olympic forest," evicting thousands of migrant workers and shopkeepers from their homes for the site with little or no compensation, spending $3.7 billion on highway and subway repairs, $400 million on health care reform, $12.2 billion on environmental reform and $400 million in communications and technology, according to a report in The Washington Post.

The Chinese government should not need the Olympics to do what is best for its own people. Even if it wins on Friday, and begins shutting down polluting factories and planting trees on every corner, it will not be able to hide its human rights abuses. China's practices of imprisoning and torturing political and religious dissidents has given human rights organizations, Congress and the State Department reason to highlight China's record. Now even President George W. Bush, who until recently remained silent on the issue of American Chinese scholars detained in China, used his first telephone conversation with Chinese President Jiang Zemin on Thursday to raise concerns about the detained U.S. citizens and legal residents, like McLean resident Gao Zhan and City University of Hong Kong professor Li Shaomin, both of whom were initially held without charges and have been denied access to their lawyers.

The Games have long been a symbol of the strength and vibrancy of the human spirit. For Beijing to carry the Olympic flame, when its government has tried to crush this spirit in so many of its own, would be a disgrace.

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