- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2008

President Bush has no choice but to cancel his trip to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics. No doubt, the president will resist this inevitability, as cancellation would sour U.S.-China relations. Mr. Bush cannot stand on Chinese soil without making a mockery of the freedom agenda. The repression in Tibet is just the latest evidence.

What began as a series of peaceful protests in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa on March 10 has devolved into a series of pitched street battles and house-to-house searches. Chinese troops have exacted retribution against ethnic Tibetans after the latter attacked shops and businesses owned or patronized by ethnic Chinese. Beijing has reacted in brutal disproportion. Tibetan authorities contend that the crackdown has cost scores of lives; Beijing has reported 16 deaths. It is impossible to know who is correct, as Beijing has imposed a new cloak of secrecy.

Reporters and editors of The Washington Times asked Christopher Hill, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, in a Tuesday editorial board meeting whether the violence jeopardizes Mr. Bush’s visit. “I can’t add to the president’s words,” he demurred.

One of the few foreign-policy bright spots of Jimmy Carter’s presidency was the 1980 Moscow Olympics boycott. The Soviets invaded Afghanistan, refused to withdraw and ignored warnings of a boycott. The official announcement was handed down exactly 28 years ago on March 21, 1980. It was difficult for the athletes, but a fine moment for the Carter presidency.

The Bush administration has tied itself in knots trying to rationalize Beijing’s behavior. Just last week, the State Department upgraded China in its most recent Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Beijing no longer stands among the world’s most brutal human-rights abusers in Foggy Bottom’s appraisal. So, China has left the company of North Korea, Cuba and Iran.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner’s suggestion of a European Union boycott is the proper approach. It places the ball squarely in Beijing’s court to ease the repression — and just not on Tibetans.

It is the United States and Europe — not China — which possess the human-rights leverage right now. Beijing 2008 indeed parallels Moscow 1980.

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