China's Olympic-Sized Victory

Posted: Jun 27, 2001 12:00 AM
Picture this: Beneath a towering portrait of Chairman Mao, brutal Chinese dictators bask in the warm glow of international good will as the world's top volleyball players romp across imported sand spread over Tiananmen Square -- the same bloodied site where government troops massacred peaceful pro-democracy protesters in 1989. That's the twisted vision of the butchers of Beijing. And it could come true in just two weeks. The International Olympic Committee will choose the site of the 2008 games on July 13. China is considered the front-runner. This totalitarian regime will do anything to win, and we Americans are standing on the sidelines saying and doing nothing to stop them. It is hard to remain neutral about the thought of bikini-clad competitors high-fiving in the Communist plaza where military tanks mowed down young Chinese students carrying replicas of our Lady Liberty. But neutrality is the official stand the Bush administration took this week. "We decided not to decide," said Richard A. Boucher, State Department spokesman. Chinese president Jiang Zemin no doubt did some high-fiving himself when he heard the news. How can we remain neutral -- uninvolved -- about China's bid for Olympic glory while religious minorities such as the Falun Gong are persecuted, repressed and tortured with cattle prods? How can we remain neutral -- standing by -- while dissenting journalists are shut down, Internet cafes are raided, and government critics have their tongues cut off? How can we remain neutral -- on the fence -- while the Chinese government continues to operate slave labor camps in open defiance of international laws? How can we remain neutral -- indeterminate -- about rewarding China while government-sponsored infanticide, forced abortions and a coercive one-child policy continue to strike terror in the hearts of Chinese parents? How can we remain neutral -- detached -- about a country that tried to subvert our election system and continues a campaign of military aggression in Asia? Just this week, The Washington Times' Bill Gertz reports, Chinese warships menaced the Spratly island chain near the Philippines. Chinese military occupation of the Spratlys is part of Beijing's strategy of expanding its empire. And how can we remain neutral -- disengaged -- about Beijing's Olympic aspirations while its leaders hold more than 30 American citizens in Chinese prisons, as well as a growing number of Chinese-born scholars who are permanent U.S. residents and have children who are American citizens? These hostages are being detained by the Ministry of State Security on trumped-up charges of espionage and have been denied any semblance of due process. This column reported in March on one of those prisoners, American University professor Gao Zhan, who hasn't been seen or heard from by her husband and 5-year-old, American-born son Andrew, in four months. The family had been on vacation in China and was preparing to return to the U.S., when a group of 15 Beijing secret police in plain clothes swarmed Andrew and his parents at the airport. "It was very, very scary," Mr. Xue, who was released with his son earlier this spring, told me. "We were approaching the check-in counter, just waiting in line, when they took all three of us by surprise." The boy was taken to a state-run "kindergarten," where his "caretakers" refused to let him speak to his parents or grandparents for 26 days. The Wall Street Journal's Claudia Rosett has publicized the cases of three other American-based Chinese scholars who vanished this year under similar circumstances. How can we remain neutral -- idle and unmoved -- while the Chinese laugh off concerns about the human rights of their people and ours, and in the same breath argue that giving the Olympics to Beijing will provide an incentive for them to change their ways? If three decades of economic liberalization and free trade with us haven't worked, who really believes a candy-coated Olympics (replete with forced smiles and fake beaches and dead grass painted green for show) will break China's chains? Whether China wins or loses its Olympic bid, it can already claim victory. Neutrality in the face of totalitarianism is condonation clothed in diplomatic cowardice.