Olympics: Appeals grow for Bush to protest

WASHINGTON (BP)--Congressional members of President Bush's own party urged him not to attend the opening ceremony of this year's Olympic games in Beijing during a Capitol Hill news conference.

Citing widespread human rights abuses of the host Chinese government, Reps. Frank Wolf, R.-Va., and Chris Smith, R.-N.J., said neither the president nor any other official of the U.S. government should be present when the Olympics begin officially Aug. 8 in Beijing. Sen. Jim Bunning, R.-Ky., echoed their opinions.

The Republican congressional members joined other representatives and senators, as well as spokespersons for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and various human rights organizations, in bringing attention to China's policies. They said the communist power is not only oppressing its own people but promoting human rights violations in such countries as North Korea, Sudan and Burma.

China is the world's worst violator of human rights, Smith said at the May 1 news conference. No other country "comes close in scope or depravity," he said.

In terms of its record on human rights, Wolf told reporters, "China of today is worse than China of yesterday."

USCIRF already had called on Bush to boycott the Olympics' opening ceremony, urging the action in early April after a brutal Chinese crackdown on what began as peaceful protests in Tibet. Commission members reported on China's abuses at the news conference.

Richard Land, a USCIRF vice chair, focused on China's treatment of North Korean refugees, saying the commission's research had provided "undeniable proof that North Korean refugees are mistreated, tortured and imprisoned in both North Korea and China."

"The claim made by the Chinese government that North Koreans do not experience persecution if they are returned to North Korea does not pass any minimal truth test," said Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "North Korean refugees need protection, and China must give it to them, and we must insist on it."

Released in mid-April, the second of USCIRF's reports on North Korea showed new Christian converts receive particularly harsh treatment if caught by security agents of their home country. Fake prayer meetings have been established near the China-North Korea border to entrap Christians, former North Korean security agents have told investigators.

With the Olympics 100 days away, Land said, "China has 100 days to recognize that its international obligation to protect North Korean refugees is paramount over its bilateral agreement with" North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il.

Both China and North Korea are on the U.S. State Department's list of "countries of particular concern," a designation for the world's worst violators of religious freedom.

Smith provided a litany of China's abuses.

"The rape of Tibet is just an overt manifestation of what is done covertly every day in China," he said.

Possibly as many as 100 million female babies have been aborted since 1979 under China's coercive population control program, Smith said. "We've all heard of genocide," he told reporters. "This is gendercide, where girls are targeted for extinction precisely because they are girls."

Speaking of the Sudanese regime's ongoing killing of its own people in the western part of the country, Smith said, "We know that there would not be the genocide that occurs every single day in Darfur ... had it not been for ... the Chinese government."

China has provided Khartoum with most of its small arms in recent years while being Sudan's biggest oil customer, according to Human Rights First.

Smith said he hopes "the Chinese people realize we are with them. They deserve democracy. They deserve fundamental freedoms. They don't deserve" their government.

Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., said he learned from credible sources the day before the May 1 news conference that the Beijing government had ordered American-owned hotels to install Internet filters in order to monitor information being sent and received.

China is making the 2008 games "into an Olympics of oppression," said Brownback, who hosted the news conference.

Also speaking at the event were Sen. Robert Menendez, D.-N.J.; Rep. Diane Watson, D.-Calif.; and spokespersons for such organizations as the North Korea Freedom Coalition, International Campaign for Tibet, Save Darfur Coalition and U.S. Campaign for Burma.


Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.

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