In recent weeks our news has been filled with talk of boycotts of the Beijing Olympics, to take place later this year. It’s raised a lot of issues, not least of all the concern a lot of world leaders seem to have about the Games being hosted in a country believed to be in violation of Western ideas and values.
Another one of these issues is that of Tibet. Formerly part of China until it declared independence in 1911, Tibet enjoyed a few decades of independence before the Chinese Civil War of 1949. After the War and the subsequent signing of the Seventeen Points Agreement, Tibet was officially a part of China. Chinese accusations of Tibet’s seemingly backwards social structure – at the time it was a serfdom with the power in the hands of monasteries and the rich – were at the centre of their imperialistic interests in the area, they argued. Tibetans, naturally, viewed Chinese interest in their country as selfish and to further their imperial agenda. After Chinese reform changes in Tibet and the following Lhasa Rebellion in 1959, these tensions were only heightened. It seems they have resurfaced today, under the guise of the Olympics.
The attention of the global media is on China at the moment, anxious to see the response of the international community to the conflict with Tibet. There were concerns among certain nations such as France about whether or not Beijing was really a fitting place to host the Games. With the focus of the entire world, seemingly, on your part of the world, a Tibetan with a grudge would be a fool to pass up the opportunity of some free publicity for his cause.
Which is not to say I don’t sympathise with the Tibetans, I do. I just don’t believe that the timing and the scale of this campaign for independence were coincidence. Call me a cynic, but it can’t be an out-of-the-blue thing; now everyone’s talking about it, there are online petitions, Facebook groups, the whole works. It’s a clever idea really, but wrongly timed.
The Olympics Games are one of the grandest traditions we have; it’s important to remember that they are a sports tournament, not a meeting of the General Assembly. Politics shouldn’t need to cross over into every arena of our lives, we should be allowed to hold Games wherever it’s appropriate to do so and not drag politics into it simply because the hosting country has different policies to its predecessors. I doubt the athletes care if it’s in Beijing or Boston, do they? So long as they compete in a safe and fair environment; after all, that’s why they’re there, that’s why the Games exist.
While the Tibetan independence movement might be important, now is not the time for them to be disrupting the Olympics; boycotting the Flame as it crosses the world; world leaders refusing to attend the opening ceremonies; protests on the street: none of these are going to help make the Games go any smoother and if Tibet wants its country’s future to be its own, they should let China deal with one thing at a time. When the Olympics are done and dusted, we will all still remember the campaign for Tibetan independence; they can start again at that time. Just give the Chinese some breathing space.