The second of two columns on the 2008 Summer Olympics in China.
Many Americans add to their celebrations of the New Year by watching not only the televised Rose Bowl championship game but also the stunning floral floats in the Rose Bowl Parade. One of them is already causing protests in Pasadena, Cal., and around the world because it also celebrates the 2008 Chinese Olympics, thereby calling attention to that nation’s complicity in the Darfur genocide by Sudan, which China has heavily invested in.
In the July 19 story “Roses Are Red,” which ran in the Pasadena Weekly, Joe Piasecki reported that both local and international human-rights organizations are urging the Tournament of Roses Association and the Pasadena City Council to speak out about how the Olympics in China will be a chilling caricature of what tournament President C.L. Keedy, justifying the inclusion of the float in the parade, said: “The Olympics, which brings nations together, is the epitome of a global celebration providing a worldwide spirit of cooperation, supporting athletes in peaceful competition.” But there are no celebrations among the many victims of China’s chronic cruelty.
The acutely controversial float is sponsored by the Pasadena-based Avery Dennison Corp., which, the Pasadena Weekly reports, “employs more than 10,000 people in factories it owns in China,” making office and consumer products.
Among the gathering critics of the Avery float are international human-rights organizations Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch.
Sophie Richardson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asian Division, accurately points out: “The people who are organizing the parade should be fully aware that the Chinese government uses this kind of opportunity not for just promoting the Olympics, but for real political propaganda purposes. The float will certainly be construed as not just support of the Olympics, but for the Chinese government’s staging of it.”
The supporters of this particular float are very likely to claim that protests about China’s complicity in human-rights violations, including the ongoing genocide in Darfur, have become irrelevant by citing China’s support of the unanimous July 31 resolution by the U.N. Security Council. The resolution will purportedly send 26,000 U.N. and African troops and police into Darfur to begin to end the genocide.
But before that Security Council vote, China greatly undermined the resolution by stripping from the original language a clause pledging sanctions against the government of Sudan if it prevented the implementation of the resolution. Sudanese President Omar Bashir has broken every agreement he has signed to end the horrors that have cost the lives of more than 450,000 black Africans in Darfur. On that record, the genocide will continue.
This acclaimed but deeply flawed U.N. resolution approved July 31 also prevents the disarming of Gen. Bashir’s militia, the janjaweed, which is responsible for most of the mass murders of the people in Darfur, and the huge numbers of gang rapes of Darfur’s black women.
Because of lethal holes in this U.N. resolution, the growing international campaign to shame China, Sudan’s largest investor and supplier of arms, into pressuring its genocidal partner to really end the atrocities there is continuing. On Jan. 1, the world will see the shaming on television and in international newspapers if the Avery Dennison Corp. floral float remains as a focus of the Rose Bowl Parade, billed as “The Passport to the World’s Celebrations.”
However, it is not too late for the Tournament of Roses Association and Pasadena city officials to clearly disassociate themselves from the float’s propaganda value for China’s dictatorship. In a letter to Tournament of Roses President C.L. Keedy, Robert Menard, secretary-general of the invaluable champion of international press freedoms, Reporters Without Borders, showed how the Tournament of Roses can greatly add to the campaign to disgrace China into pressuring Sudan to end the mass murder.
Mr. Menard urged Mr. Keedy and Pasadena officials to “say clearly to the Chinese authorities that you will not allow the Rose Parade to be associated with the Chinese Olympics by hosting the Avery float until the Chinese (Olympic Committee) organizers, who are for the most part also senior (Chinese government) officials, release prisoners of conscience, reform repressive laws and end censorship.” A similar letter, reports the Pasadena Weekly, has been sent to Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard.
This public focusing on China as one of the pariahs among civilized nations will also put increased pressure on China even if its Olympics float is not removed from the Rose Parade to compel Sudan to stop the Darfur genocide so that China will no longer be identified with these atrocities, which British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told The New York Times are “the greatest humanitarian disaster the world faces today.”