ASEAN LEADERS ARE BARKING AT THE WRONG TREE WITH THE WRONG CAUSE AND WRONG OBJECTIVE

ASEAN LEADERS ARE BARKING AT THE WRONG TREE 

WITH THE WRONG CAUSE AND WRONG OBJECTIVE

 

ASEAN leaders are complaining about the convenient way to solve the Rohingya problem.

But for the Rohingyas or Burmese Muslims or Christian Chins/Karens/Kachins and Buddhist Mons/Shans/Burmese etc AND the NLDS  and political opponents and armed rebel groups_

Whether the SPDC would accept them back is not their main concern. What is the consequences after repatriation is their only problem.

Jailed? Tortured? Is the main concern for all but ‘Village arrest’ (for Rohingyas only) is the problem.

No democracy, no Human Rights, no political life, no respect for the Rights of religious minorities and Ethnic minorities is their main concern.

But the lack of development, economic problems back home are the most important fact for all of them.

There is no clear cut line to DEFINE OR CATEGORIZE THEM INTO POLITICAL OR ECONOMIC MIGRANTS. 

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STOP HATRED, STOP TRYING TO DIVIDE; FOR A LONG LASTING PEACE, PROGRESS, AND PROSPERITY

 

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Use Olympic Games to educate China

Use Olympic Games to educate China

Concerned Netizen in Malaysiakini

I refer to the Malaysiakini article Fire on the roof of the world.

I am quite alarmed at China’s response to protests held in Tibet and surrounding regions. Daily we see protests about it along the Olympic torch run, and I wonder why we don’t hear more protests here in Malaysia. The Olympic games lend an excellent opportunity for the world to pressure China to do better in its treatment of others.

Some say that such a move is politicising the Olympic games when they are only about sport. But I beg to differ as there has always been a political element in the games. That’s why countries fight so hard to host them; so that they can show off their might and economic wealth on the world stage.

That’s why these games mean so much to the Chinese government today. From the moment they were granted the right to host the games, it has been a political issue for them. It’s not really about having a good natured contest between countries.

It’s about showing off economic clout, national power and glory. Good sportsmanship, peace and harmony are a very distant second. It’s China’s coming out party and they don’t want anyone to rain on it.

If China continues to go down the path of repression and violence, I don’t believe I can honestly turn on my television set and watch the games. It would be like taking part in a glamorous party while crowds of people outside are beaten, jailed and tortured.

It simply sickens me that we can go on with these games as if nothing is happening. Which to me is giving China the message that it can continue to have it’s cake (persecuting others or support persecution) and eat it too (world influence and ascendancy).

It’s as though that many countries and athletes in the world are saying that it doesn’t matter how China conducts itself as a nation, we will continue to support them and applaud them. I sincerely hope that heads of state will boycott the opening and closing ceremonies and that athletes will take a stand and not participate in the games.

It’s definitely a sacrifice on their part, but it sends a strong and clear message that human life is valued above fame and glory. If there are other ways to apply pressure, then we should do so. Nothing will change unless there is some pain on the part of the Chinese government. A loss of ‘face’ along with economic pain just might be the catalyst to make a difference in the lives of those who face persecution daily.

I used think it was a mistake that China was given the chance to host the games, now I believe it’s a golden opportunity for world to make a difference. If we miss this opportunity, it frightens me about what things China might demand of or take from the rest of the world as they gain more economic and military might.

I’m not so sure I want a country like China to become a world power if they continue to believe that they don’t have to shoulder any of the responsibilities that come with being a world power. Do we really need another world power with the potential to abuse the rest of the world?

Fire on the roof of the World

Sim Kwang Yang in Malaysiakini

Judging from some public commentaries and private conversations among Malaysians of Chinese ethnic persuasion on the issue of Tibet, more than a few of them have embraced the monolithic narrative of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) hook, line, and sinker.

According to them, the Tibet upheaval is a matter of law and order, a series of riots by criminal elements among the local ethnic Tibetans who have been organised, trained, supervised, and probably funded by the Dalai Lama’s government in exile. In this tale, the Dalai Lama is en evil liar who would stoop so low as to tarnish the image of the Beijing Olympics just to further his cause of independence for Tibet.

This official narrative will also accuse ‘Western media” like the BBC and the CNN of trying to spread lies throughout the world about the PRC and the Tibet issue, in order to give their political masters a leverage over the PRC in all kinds of international negotiations.

Meanwhile, the whole media machinery in the PRC from the official Xinhua News Agency, the People’s Dailies, to the various CCTV stations will bombard the international airwaves with the real “facts” about China and Tibet.

Why many Malaysian Chinese will embrace such an account so uncritically is curious in itself, but that is not my concern for the moment. My central question is this: how are we going to make sense of the Tibet issue at all?

Proud coming-out party

First, we must have a standpoint, a perspective from which we can examine the whole controversy. I suggest we have to forget for the moment that we are members of any ethnic community, and forget that we may have cultural, historical, or even social relation with any nation-state of the world. This would be after the fashion of what John Rawl’s would call his “veil of ignorance”.

When we look at China thus, we find a member of the international community of nation states, fast emerging as the third largest economy of the world, with military strength to match its economic prowess, and with obvious aspiration to become a top-notch superpower of the world. The Beijing Olympic Games is their proud coming-out party.

We also find a one party state with hard totalitarian rule by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over her 1.2 billion citizens. Like all totalitarian one party states past and present, the ruling party is equated with the government and the state.

Naturally, any criticism of the government or the ruling party is regarded as an act of treason in China. As I write, news has just reached us that the dissident Hu Jia has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison. His crime consists of giving interviews to foreign press and publishing a few articles purportedly criticising the government.

It is an understatement to say that there is little freedom of expression in the PRC. Strict censorship and the ubiquitous secret police are probably the norms.

Patriotic Chinese nationals and their sympathisers in the global Chinese Diasporas may argue that human rights and freedom of speech are not what China needs. They may further posit the view that given the convoluted historical background of modern China, their large territory, and their very complex demographical composition, they need a strong centralised government to hold everything together. The benevolent dictatorship of the CCP is the key to the economic miracle of the PRC in the last three decades.

That may, or may not, be entirely true. It does not seem that this argument can be true for eternity. But I would not get into an argument about this point, yet.

One obvious difficulty with the lack of freedom of expression in China is both immediate and critical on the issue of Tibet though.

Natural fairness

With no alternative or independent media reporting from Tibet, how are we going to verify or falsify the Chinese official version of what has happened in that relatively isolated province sitting on top of the roof of the world?

Unlike passionately patriotic Chinese citizens and their sympathisers throughout the global Chinese Diasporas, people like me around the world cannot take the words of any government in any country on their face value on mere trust alone.

There must also be many people like me who subscribe to some notion of natural fairness. In any quarrel, wither between two neighbours, or between any government and some of their people, the views of both contending parties must be given equal time and equal space in the media. The party accused of wrong doing must then enjoy their natural right for full reply in their self-defence.

That the media is dominated by the ruling BN coalition in Malaysia is the reason why I and my friends in Malaysiakini have been labouring and chiselling away at this bamboo curtain of unfair reporting. If the newly formed Pakatan Rakyat turns out to be as bad as the BN, I am sure we will also criticise them without fear or favour.

In the case of the Tibet crisis, is it not a little strange that we have heard nothing at all from those parties allegedly doing the public protests and the rioting? Is it not strange that even when a group of foreign media organisations were invited to a guided and rigidly orchestrated tour of Tibet recently, monks were still risking their lives to scream for justice for Tibetans in front of foreign cameras?

If you want to find out the other side of the story, you can go to the internet, and simply type “Tibet” on http://www.google.com. There you will find other versions of the Tibet story, especially events leading to the escape into exile of the Dalai Lama in 1959.

On March 12, 1959, when protesters marched through the streets of Lhasa, demanding Tibetan independence from Chinese rule, Chinese troops moved in. According to the Office of Tibet in London, 86,000 Tibetans were killed that day. In the days that followed, thousands of monks were executed or arrested, while many monasteries and temples were destroyed.

The overseas Tibetan websites also give many accounts of the intervening decades since then describing how the mass migration of Han Chinese into Tibet has made the Tibetans a minority in their homeland. They have described how the PRC efforts to assimilate ethnic Tibetans into the Han culture have endangered their ancient religious, social and cultural legacies.

These stories are the other side of the Tibetan coin that we hear so little about. They may or may not be entirely true, but they give us balance in our view of the current situation in Tibet. They raise the question of whether the Tibetan disturbances in recent weeks are riots or rebellions. They raise doubt that perhaps the disturbances there are not merely criminal acts threatening law and order, but courageous acts of political statement.

Much respected

Meanwhile, we have the Dalai Lama declaring that he is not seeking independence of Tibet from Chinese rule. Rather he is hoping for some degree of autonomy. He has repeatedly requested for some kind of dialogue with the Chinese government, but they seem to have brushed aside this proposal with a great show of contempt.

All along, the Dalai Lama has propagated his idea of non-violence in this political impasse. He is much respected outside China. Why, he has been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, and of all things Western, the Nobel Award is one of the more credible institutions to the non-Chinese world. To paint him as the head of a terrorist organisation may work in the closed society within the PRC, but such demonising propaganda is a little hard for me to swallow.

The ocean of official statements and public opinions issuing forth from Mainland smacks of Cold War rhetoric. Their tone and the argument are coarse, displaying a kind of outdated worldview that borders on the hegemonic.

Lastly, there is this argument about Tibet being the internal affair of China, and the outside world has no business pitting their nose where it does not belong. I am thinking of the holocaust in Germany during WWII. Could the Nazi regime then also make a similar claim, morally?

The hard fact is that we live in an inter-connected world. China is gaining influence on the international stage. The Chinese political-economic juggernaut is spreading its wings to all parts of the developing world, scouring the globe for precious fuel and natural resources to satisfy its ravenous hunger for economic growth.

The PRC is also clamouring for a bigger say in international forum such as the many agencies of the United Nations. With greater prestige and power, comes greater responsibility, to answer to mankind for their handling of the Tibetan dilemma, and a whole host of other issues. Like all other nations on Earth, China cannot claim absolute sovereignty,

China may have looked like a First World nation in her cities like Shanghai and Beijing. But under the veneer of modernity in the coastal developed provinces, China has not yet stepped over the threshold of a Third World nation, if the handling of the Tibet crisis is anything to go by.

Chinese; Are they too clever, selfish or cowards?

    Chinese avoid confrontation with authorities.

Are they too clever, selfish or cowards?

Burmese Chinese and Malaysian Chinese are the behaving the same way.

Before reading about Malaysian Chinese in the_THE CHINESE, THEIR HOUSES HAVE NO WINDOWS by a Malaysian banker, please  taste back some Burmese Chinese stories/comments.From Irrawady, By Shah Paung November 12, 2007

The junta’s top leader, Snr Gen Than Shwe, is known to despise Muslims and Chinese people who live in Burma. However, most Chinese in Burma are business people and were not directly involved in the September uprising. In Mandalay, home to thousands of Chinese immigrants, most doors remained closed during the protests, a sign that the ethnic Chinese were not in support of the demonstrators. The Muslim minority, on the other hand, played an active part in the pro-democracy demonstrations, just as they have throughout the country’s troubled recent history.

“We cannot say that the demonstrations were not related to Muslims just because they were led by Buddhist monks,” Pan Cha concludes. “We were all born and live in Burma and should not discriminate among each other. We must work together toward democracy.”

Ko Moe Thee Zone’s announcement regarding SPDC crony businessmen

Now, we see the Muslims and Indians participating in the monks led peoples protesting. However, the Chinese seem to be curiously missing – in shape or form – within the context of the current protests.

Are they against the current protests or in support of the protests? Or simply indifferent to any of this since they already have a stronghold over Burma’s economy and anything that takes attention away from them would be positive?

Either way, the bigger question here is not a question of why aren’t the Chinese involved in these protest rather when will the Chinese get involved. The bottom line is why do the minorities, specifically the Chinese and the so called Indians or Muslims, continue to feel disenfranchised?

For Malaysiakini readers :

THE CHINESE, THEIR HOUSES HAVE NO WINDOWS

Saturday, March 29, 2008 at 8:06 PM Posted by jatt

THE CHINESE, THEIR HOUSES HAVE NO WINDOWS

This is a story from a banker (name witheld).*

I looked out the window.
And I saw.

Thousands and thousands of Malays in the Bersih Rally. They were fighting their own kind for a cause they believed in. And they risk being ostracized by their Muslim brothers. And they risk much.

I looked out the window.
And I saw.

Thousands and thousands of Indians holding the picture of Gandhi in the streets. All were teargassed and many beaten with batons. At Batu Caves , they were locked in, pumped with tear gas and sprayed with chemical water. 80 are awaiting trial. 31 are charged for attempted murder of a policeman that attacked them. All their leaders are under ISA. The one that got away fled the country.

I looked out the window.
And I saw.

Thousands and thousands of Chinese closing their doors. Minding their own business. Watching the soap operas. Playing mahjong. Going to the gym. Planning for holidays. Eating bah kuet teh. Enrolling their children in private schools. Going for line dancing. Changing to a bigger car. Perming their hair brown. Going to the movies. Shopping.

The Chinese. They don’t look out the window.
Their houses. Have no windows.
______________________

It is because of 3 generations of ‘keeping quiet’ that we are in a political quagmire of sorts today.

My story may not be the same for others, but it is no doubt a story of 3 generations of political oblivion -a saga of unremitting circumstances that has ‘trained’ us to look the other way – to economic wealth, education and religion. Politics because a ‘dirty word’ in our home; as a Chinese we should disengage ourselves completely from this ‘unproductive’ activity.

This is my story.

My grandfather took a ship to join the gold rush in

San Francisco
around the turn of the last century. Halfway on a Chinese junk, he got sea-sick, so he jumped ship at Singapore .. Traveling up the hinterland, he focused on survival. Hungry from famine in Southern China , he vowed never to be hungry again. Politics was the last thing on his mind. Keeping his belly filled was his only priority. It was an obsession that dictated everything he did.

My father worked for the British. One day, forced by the Japanese to do ‘national service’, he was selected to look after food supplies. The family was starving during the war, so he stole rice under his care and hid them in sweet potatoes when he cooked rice. Our neighbors always thought we were eating sweet potatoes we grew on the fringes of the jungle, when in actual fact, we always had rice.

(As a matter of fact, it is more nutritious to eat sweet potatoes than rice….sweet potatoes, the red variety, has carotenes-vitamin A precursors-other nutrients & fibre. Polished rice has mainly carbohydrate.)

My grandmother sews clothes for the women day and night to survive and got paid in Japanese currency.. When the war was over, these Japanese notes – which were unnumbered – became valueless. The family again struggled to bring food on the table. It was a litany of hunger and fear in our house.

When it came to my generation, my father thought education was the passport to economic freedom for us. He refused for us to be a contractor like him and forced us to study. In university, he forbade me to get involved in politics. He went as far as to refuse me to study law so that I would not get involved in politics. I was forced to study a course I did not like because he wanted me to be a banker.

Needless to say, I made the same mistake when it came to my children. I told them also the ‘passport to heaven’ was also to study. But I refused to dictate what they should study but instead asked them to study what they liked. I ensured they got the best education. I also reminded everyone that they do not talk about politics on the dinner table.

My story is not uncommon; such is the struggle and saga common to thousands of Malaysian homes.

We are cajoled by our parents to look at bread-and butter issues. We are told that politics are not for us. We are told that our ‘houses have no windows’, so mind your own business and close the door. We are told that if this country is not good enough, you must get a good education and emigrate.

The Chinese? We are told this is not our home. We have no home. We are the Jews of the East. When trouble starts, we ought to look the other way. If it gets worse, we emigrate. Money talks. So long we have money, some country will take us.

100 years of ignorance. Is it blissful? No. *It is tragic*.

Credit : Taken from http://groups.google.co.uk/group/sangkancil posted by Mei Joon Quek

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1 comments:

  gnh

March 30, 2008 5:47 AM

While I agree with the writer that the political activism is not the strong point of the Chinese here, you will note that the election this year showed it is at an embryonic stage at least. We may not be waving placards and throwing rocks in the streets, but the act of voting for the Opposition does constitute political activism on a personal level. And the results are no less astounding.

There are reasons for this state of affairs. Two and an half millenia of Confucian teaching have taught us that us to value social harmony and eschew disorder. In our circumstances, the fires of May 13 have seared into our collective memory that sometimes political victories come at a high cost. So for 40 years, we have learned to get along; we get used to some political power and in return we were granted the right to pursue economic goals. And at every GE since that fateful date, we have marked our ballot papers against the sign of the Dacing, an almost Pavlovian act rather than one of reasoned judgment. And invariably, prior to each GE, we are our fears are stoked by the firebrands in UMNO Youth.

The election this year is a sea change. There are many factors that came into play. But from a personal point of view, the sight of our Minister of Education waving the keris was the straw that broke the came’s back. If the minister could elicit that response from me, the most placid and politically apathetic of people, then I suppose the vast majority of Chinese here would have felt mortally insulted. It made voting Opposition that much easier, something Anwar capitalised on and encouraged.

So while most of us of the older generation will retreat into out comfort zones after doing our duties as citizens, the younger generation will build upon what was achieved. In time, we hope to see them speaking out against injustice as Malaysians and not as members of a racial group. I look forward with optimism.

Please read my contribution in the Wikipedia enclyclopedia to know the basic spyche of Burmese Chinese which shaped the present mindset of Chinese in Myanmar.

In 1962, Ne Win led a coup d’état and declared himself head of state. Although a kabya himself, he banned Chinese-language education, and created other measures to compel the Chinese to leave. Ne Win’s government stoked up racial animosity and ethnic conflicts against the Chinese, who were terrorized by Burmese citizens, the most violent riots taking place at the time of the Cultural Revolution in China.[1] When Ne Win implemented the “Burmese Way to Socialism“, a plan to nationalize all industries, the livelihoods of many entrepreneurial Chinese were destroyed and some 100,000 Chinese left the country.[1] All schools were nationalized, including Chinese-language schools. Beginning in 1967 and continuing throughout the 1970s, anti-Chinese riots continued to flare up and many believed they were covertly supported by the government.[2] Many Burmese Chinese left the country during Ne Win’s rule, largely because of a failing economy and widespread discrimination.

The first government-sponsored racial riots to take place in Burma was in 1967, during General Ne Win‘s rule. In the riots, the general populace went on a killing spree because of sedition and instigation against the Chinese by various government departments. The massacre lasted for about five consecutive days, during which thousands of Chinese died or were left dying in the streets of Rangoon. Some of the Chinese were thrown alive from the second and third floors of buildings in downtown Rangoon. The dead and wounded Chinese were hauled up unceremoniously and dumped onto army trucks and taken to ‘htauk kyan’ incinerators and the ‘carcasses’ were sent up in smoke. That showed the true bestial and cruel side of the character of the ruling Burma Military Junta. The only “crime” the Chinese committed was the wearing of Chairman Mao‘s badges on their shirts.[3][4][5]

Latha Secondary School was torched by the henchmen of General Ne Win’s government, where school girls were burnt alive. Chinese shops were looted and set on fire. Public attention was successfully diverted by Ne Win from the uncontrollable inflation, scarcity of consumer items and rising prices of rice.

References_

  1. ^ a b c d e Martin Smith (1991). Burma – Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity. London,New Jersey: Zed Books, 153-154,225-226,98,39. 
  2. ^ Steinberg, David L. (2002). Burma: The State of Myanmar. Georgetown University Press. ISBN 0-87840-893-2. 
  3. ^ Various Goernment Newspapers in Burma.
  4. ^ Asia Week, Far Eastern Economic Review.
  5. ^ Bertil Litner Bangkok Post Thailand

CHINA OLYMPICS

CHINA OLYMPICS

Read all in Malaysiakini, Dean Johns, “The Irish Conspiracy”

The Chinese authorities haven’t yet realised in their enthusiasm to show it off, that the so-called ‘bird’s nest’ design of the main O’Lympic stadium looks more like a bundle – of people, of freedoms, of whatever you like – brutally bound with tapes of concrete and steel and bursting to be freed from its bonds.

And now the IOC is using the forthcoming 2008 O’Lympics to play the ultimate Irish joke: staging this ultimate symbol of international togetherness, fair play and good fellowship in the world’s biggest and most notorious dictatorship, Communist China.

adolf hitler giving the nazi saluteThe O’Lympic Committee has tried the same trick before, of course, in 1936 in Berlin, in hopes of helping appease Adolph Hitler’s ambitions for his Nazi Third Reich. But that didn’t work too well, as three years later it was followed by World War II.

Lots of lovers of freedom and democracy around the world are calling for a boycott of the Beijing O’Lympics. This would be poetically appropriate in an Irish sort of way, as it was in Ireland that tenants ostracised the eponymous Captain Boycott for refusing to reduce their crippling rents.

I’m against the boycott myself, however, as I believe that the Chinese Communist Party will be infinitely more effectively shamed by the protests by exiled Tibetans and other dissidents that have already started dogging the progress of the O’Lympic torch relay.

I love the logo that protesters against the Chinese regime have designed expressly for their purpose: a facsimile of the famous O’Lympic rings, composed of handcuffs.

beijing olympics stadiumI also love the fact that, as the Chinese authorities haven’t yet realised in their enthusiasm to show it off, that the so-called ‘bird’s nest’ design of the main O’Lympic stadium looks more like a bundle – of people, of freedoms, of whatever you like – brutally bound with tapes of concrete and steel and bursting to be freed from its bonds.

To make matters even more embarrassing, this symbol of China’s ‘progress’ under totalitarian rule is shrouded in thick smog, reminding the viewer that another price the people are paying for the system that socially and politically enslaves them is some of the world’s worst pollution – including water so suspect that some teams are bringing a clean supply with them; produce so full of poison that the US team is intending to import its own food; and air so unhealthy that some athletes have started wondering whether they’re prepared to risk breathing it.

If you’re starting to suspect by now that the Irish Conspiracy is anti-Chinese, forget it. What we Irish are against is repression. Of ourselves by the British, as happened for centuries. And of anyone else by their rulers, anywhere and everywhere it happens, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and especially in the worst of all cases, China.

As everybody knows, China is an ancient civilisation, whose people were showing their genius for agriculture, the arts and invention while most of the rest of us were still stuck back in the stone age. But thanks to a string of emperors and their modern-day successors, the people of China – a quarter of the world’s population – have never in all of recorded history enjoyed a day’s freedom.

Tibet – support the Dalai Lama

Tibet – support the Dalai Lama

By Feraya Nangmone

Hi,

I just signed an urgent petition calling on the Chinese government to respect human rights in Tibet and engage in meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama. This is really important, and I thought you might want to take action:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/tibet_end_the_violence/98.php/?cl_tf_sign=1

After nearly 50 years of Chinese rule, the Tibetans are sending out a global cry for change. But violence is spreading across Tibet and neighbouring regions, and the Chinese regime is right now considering a choice between increasing brutality or dialogue, that could determine the future of Tibet and China.

We can affect this historic choice. China does care about its international reputation. Its economy is totally dependent on “Made in China” exports that we all buy, and it is keen to make the Olympics in Beijing this summer a celebration of a new China that is a respected world power.

President Hu needs to hear that ‘Brand China’ and the Olympics can succeed only if he makes the right choice. But it will take an avalanche of global people power to get his attention. Click below to join me and sign a petition to President Hu calling for restraint in Tibet and dialogue with the Dalai Lama — and tell absolutely everyone you can right away. The petition is organized by Avaaz, and they are urgently aiming to reach 1 million signatures to deliver directly to Chinese officials:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/tibet_end_the_violence/98.php/?cl_tf_sign=1

Thank you so much for your help!

Tibet: the West can use the Olympics as a weapon against Beijing

Tibet: the West can use the Olympics

as a weapon against Beijing

Excerpts from Michael Portillo, The Sunday Times

Adolf Hitler’s glee at exploiting the 1936 Berlin Olympics as a showcase for Nazism turned to fury when the black American athlete Jesse Owens won four gold medals. The Chinese leadership must by now be wondering whether staging the Games in Beijing will bring the regime more accolades than brickbats. Be careful what you wish for, as Confucius probably said.

In defence of the Olympic movement, Berlin had been selected before the Nazis came to power. No such excuse covers the decision to award the coveted prize to Beijing. In 1989 the Chinese government crushed the peaceful protests in Tiananmen Square as the world looked on in horror. China still secured the Olympics and a propaganda triumph and has looked forward to showing off to the world.

The authorities must have reflected that other governments are rarely brave enough to boycott the Olympics. The Berlin Games proceeded even though the Nazis had by then implemented the infamous Nuremberg laws that deprived German Jews of basic human rights.

Admittedly the Americans led a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics because Soviet troops had stormed Afghanistan (Russian invasion bad, American invasion good). China knew that, short of marching into neighbouring territory, nothing it did would put its show at risk.

All the indicators suggested that China would be given a soft ride. When President Jiang Zemin visited Tony Blair in 1999 the Metropolitan police treated pro-Tibet demonstrators roughly. Double-decker buses were used to shield the protest from Jiang’s sensitive eyes. As Washington became embroiled in the scandals of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and extraordinary rendition, not to mention the tremendous loss of civilian life in Iraq and Afghanistan, Premier Wen Jiabao, the prime minister, must have been confident that America would avoid dialogue on human rights.

In any case we are all in awe of China’s economic power. When Gordon Brown toured there last month, he talked of business opportunities. Prime ministers loathe being asked to raise human rights issues that threaten to interrupt the smiles, handshakes and toasts by which the success of visits are measured. Brown probably limited himself to the vaguest urging of reform.

China’s economic sway is such that it has undermined US foreign policy with impunity. America aims to use its muscle to shape a world that embraces western values.

In developing countries it insists that governments respect the rule of law and reduce corruption as a condition for trade and aid. China, on the other hand, has extended the hand of friendship to gruesome regimes (including Sudan’s). Beijing’s requirement for natural resources is its only consideration. Maybe it has enjoyed thwarting America’s attempts to export its liberal values.

So China had every reason to expect a trouble-free Olympics that would show its best face to the world. In Berlin the anti-Jewish notices were taken down in the weeks preceding the Games. In Beijing the use of cars has been restricted to reduce air pollution.

In the modern world governments are not the only players. Steven Spielberg, the film director, withdrew as artistic adviser to the Games’ ceremonies, remarking that his conscience did not allow him to continue while “unspeakable crimes” were being committed in Darfur.

His decision has transformed the situation. In that moment the Beijing Olympics flipped from being an opportunity for the Chinese government and became a threat. China’s deep concern that the Games should be a success provides those who oppose its policies with a narrow window of opportunity. It delivers leverage both to domestic dissidents and to the outside world, unparalleled since Tiananmen.

With the news blackout imposed by China on the country’s interior we cannot know whether the Tibetan protests are opportunistically linked to the forthcoming Games. But the Olympics are a political factor and the situation is dynamic. The eyes of the world are turned disapprovingly on Chinese policies.

“If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China and the Chinese in Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak out on human rights,” declared Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, before cheering crowds of Tibetans in northern India, where she had gone to meet the Dalai Lama. Such outbursts had not featured in China’s “script” for the Olympics.