Another reason to cancel your trip to the Beijing Olympics
Rather than even hint that the USA has some kind of moral superiority that makes it the World Spokesman for Human Rights -- that illusion dissipated like morning fog during the last 7 years -- maybe we can just take it Episode by Episode. Who's doing what that sucks this week? And who wants to complain about it and try to stop it.
Here's an Episode to make you think twice about taking your Gold MasterCard or your Platinum Visa to the Olympic Games in Beijing. Don't wait for a government minister to declare a boycott. Don't wait for athletes to choose to decline to compete.
Just go somewhere else for your summer vacation, and spend your money in a place where you feel comfortable about human rights and decent treatment of the people.
A sufficient disaster of big spenders who don't show up in Beijing because they're disgusted, or just feel creeped out by the government's actions in China itself, in Tibet, in Darfur, and now in Zimbawe -- empty Olympic stadiums -- and the International Olympic Commitee will get the message pretty quickly: Don't award the Olympics to any more creepy totalitarian one-party militaristic police states. It's a losing business proposition. TV sponsors don't want their fancy new cars or their soft drinks linked to police murder of Tibetan Buddhist monks. They don't want their product linked to shipments of weapons to shore up the last moments of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.
There are plenty of countries that don't have these nasty habits who'd love to host future Olympics.
But if you're packing and getting all excited about your wonderful time watching the athletes go for the gold in Beijing, here's what you're paying for. It's filling the hold of a Chinese freighter that's having trouble finding a port willing to let it offload its shipment of police weapons and ammunition.
The New York Times
Wednesday 23 April 2008
China May Give Up Attempt
to Send Arms to Zimbabwe
by Celia W. Dugger and David Barboza
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — As protests intensified across southern Africa against the shipment of Chinese-made arms intended for Zimbabwe, the government in Beijing said Tuesday that the ship carrying the arms — owned by a large Chinese state-owned company, Cosco — may return to China because of the difficulties in delivering the goods.
South Africa’s High Court on Friday barred transport of the ammunition, rockets and mortar bombs across South Africa from the port of Durban to landlocked Zimbabwe, after an Anglican archbishop argued that the arms were likely to be used to crush the Zimbabwean opposition after last month’s disputed election.
South Africa’s dock workers also said they would refuse to unload the shipment, a call backed up by the country’s powerful coalition of trade unions. On Friday, the ship, An Yue Jiang, left Durban for the open seas, and on Tuesday South Africa’s Defense Ministry said it was somewhere off Africa’s west coast.
Jiang Yu, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said at a press briefing in Beijing that the shipment was part of “normal military trade” between Zimbabwe and China, and called on other nations not to politicize the issue. But acknowledging the resistance to the shipment, she said China was considering shipping the arms back to China.
According to documents provided to South African authorities and leaked to journalists here, Poly Technologies, Inc., a Chinese state-owned arms company, made the arms, weighing 77 tons and worth $1,245,000.
The impromptu coalition of trade unions, church leaders and organizations trying to stop the delivery gained an important ally on Monday when Levy Mwanawasa, the president of Zambia, who heads a bloc of 14 southern African nations, called on other countries in the region not to let the ship dock in their ports.
“He actually said that it would be good for China to play a more useful role in the Zimbabwe crisis than supplying arms,” said a spokesman for the Zambian government, who asked not to be identified. “We don’t want a situation which will escalate the situation in Zimbabwe more than what it is.”
Mr. Mwanawasa’s statements, made to reporters as he returned from a regional conference in Mauritius, were remarkable because few African heads of state have been openly critical of Zimbabwe. The bloc he heads, the Southern African Development Community, has come under especially sharp criticism for failing to censure the Zimbabwean government for refusing to publish the results of the presidential election.
The United States has also pressed countries in the region — including Namibia and Angola, both allies of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe — not to accept the arms shipment. At a press briefing on Tuesday in Washington, Tom Casey, a State Department spokesman, said American officials had taken up the issue with China as well.
“We don’t think it’s appropriate at this point, given the political upheaval that’s occurring in Zimbabwe, for anyone to be adding extra tinder to that situation by providing additional weapons to Zimbabwe security forces,” Mr. Casey said.
More than three weeks after an election in which the opposition is said by independent monitors to have defeated the party of Mr. Mugabe, the autocrat who has led the country for 28 years, election officials have yet to release results.
Deep in a long editorial on its Web site on Wednesday, The Herald, Zimbabwe’s state-run newspaper, floated a proposal for a transitional national unity government led by Mr. Mugabe.
Human rights groups and the opposition have reported that the government was coordinating a violent crackdown on the opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change.
Church leaders in Zimbabwe said Tuesday that organized violence had been unleashed throughout the country, including abductions and torture of opposition supporters, and called on the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and the United Nations to intervene.
“We warn the world that if nothing is done to help the people of Zimbabwe from their predicament, we shall soon be witnessing genocide similar to that experienced in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and other hot spots in Africa and elsewhere,” the church leaders said in a statement, Agence France-Presse reported. The statement was signed by the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches.
Shipping arms to Zimbabwe could further complicate China’s efforts to avoid harsh international criticism before it hosts the Olympics this summer. At the same time China is trying to win allies in Africa, a source of natural resources it needs to fuel its economic boom.
The South African government, which was helping the Chinese ship clear customs in Durban last week before the ship left the port, has been criticized by trade unions and other organizations here for being complicit in getting weapons to Zimbabwe’s military when senior Army officers were being accused of helping lead and coordinate suppression of the opposition.
But South African officials said last week that they could not interfere with the shipment because there was no trade embargo against Zimbabwe.
A South African government spokesman said Tuesday that the ship remained somewhere off the west coast of Africa.
Celia W. Dugger reported from Johannesburg, and David Barboza from Shanghai.
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company