Thursday, August 7, 2008

No apology needed

A group of American cyclists, including Peters Township High School grad Mike Friedman, shown above in a Reuters photo, stirred up an international incident of sorts when they arrived for the Olympics in Beijing on Tuesday wearing protective face masks. Beijing is known for having some of the most polluted air in the world, and even though China has taken steps to cut the pollution, some athletes remain concerned about their health. Hence, the masks. A day later, the cyclists issued a news release in which they apologized for taking the health precaution, saying their action "was in no way meant to serve as an environmental or political statement. We deeply regret the nature of our choices. Our decision was not intended to insult (the Chinese Olympic organizers) or countless others who have put forth a tremendous amount of effort to improve the air quality in Beijing." Jim Scherr, CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said the organization didn't approach the cyclists about an apology. "Those athletes regret that action ... and have written an apology ... on their own behalf," he said. Sure they did. They just huddled together and knocked out a quick press release without any prodding from anyone. Right. If I were one of the cyclists and someone asked me to apologize, I could have written up a news release containing just two letters: F and U. High muckety-mucks the world over have been doing their best to apologize for the dismal human rights record and egregious actions of the Chinese government ever since Beijing was awarded the Olympics. The Chinese promised all sorts of improvements and concessions if they got the Games. They've delivered next to nothing. A few days ago, the Chinese revoked the visa of former Olympic speedskater Joey Cheek. He happens to be a Darfur activist, and the Chinese have stood in the way of action on Darfur. Two Americans were deported recently for taking part in a protest by Students for a Free Tibet. Two Chinese women were seized by authorities for protesting their evictions from family compounds that were among many razed near Tiananmen Square to clear the way for pre-Olympic construction projects. The Chinese, after pledging a free and open Internet, blocked foreign reporters' access to some Web sites. You know, the ones that tell the truth about China. The list goes on and on. The Chinese government has subjected the people of China to untold suffering just to prepare for these Olympics, and so-called world leaders react largely with a collective shrug. But these actions are what one would expect when the Olympics are given to a totalitarian, repressive, deadly regime. Next stop, North Korea?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Better be careful next time you're in China, Brant -- they toss journalists in jail over there!

My dad had to make several business trips to China in 1995-96 (he spent the whole summer of '95 there), and said the pollution there, both in the air and on the ground, was horrible. He has pics taken from his hotel window of a yellow haze enveloping the city.

--Brad Hundt

August 7, 2008 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger Roger said...

I had wondered how the imposition of driving rules and industry shut-down rules were received in Beijing. This morning, I had an opportunity to talk with an older (late 60s) couple who fled China many years ago, under hostile conditions. They are both learned people, medical doctors, now retired. I don't know what years they fled (did not both flee at the same time). However, they have returned to Shanghi (sp?) a few times, most recently about two years ago.

I asked them about the curtailing of driving, and the shut-down of industry for at least two weeks prior to the Games, and during the Games. My question, in hindsight, was really dumb, "... what do the people think about this?"

Their answer was short, followed by much explanation. They reminded me the people have no choice because the society is basically a police state. The government say, "no driving, park your car," and that is it, no questions or rebuttals to be asked. Likewise, with industry. The government say, "shut down," and that is it, no questions or rebuttals. With the heavy-handed police state, these kinds of impositions can be made because the people know the consequences of violation. These two folks said that people comply because they have seen too many consequences when steps are taken otherwise.

What would happen in this country if officials in Washington DC said to the residents of NYC, LA, Chicago, or some other big city, "... the Games are here, park your car for three or four weeks, and don't go to work." The answers of this couple were a wake-up call to the reality of how different the US works, over against these kinds of countries. And, think of the money we are pouring into their economy when we buy their goods. Ouch!

Do I have a right understanding from these folks? I have no reason to doubt them. They have shared their stories about oppression, and they are very disturbing. The efforts they expended in getting out, hoops jumped through, and strategies used, are startling.

August 10, 2008 at 5:52 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

I'm not saying that we should consider cutting off trade with totalitarian countries such as China, but we really do need to do something about the absolute crap we allow to cross our borders. One of the items that moves regularly on the Associated Press wire is a list of recalls from the feds. There was a list of about six items the other day, and ALL of them were from China. Some were filled with lead. Others could malfunction in a way that might put your eye out or catch you on fire. There has to be a better way of catching these products before they get to consumers.

August 11, 2008 at 8:38 AM  

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