A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Beijing boycotts?

Personally I boycott every Olympics, not for political reasons but because of complete and utter disinterest in watching sport. I'm not against participating in sport - in my youth I was into running (half marathon personal best of 1 hour 25 mins; 12th out of 250 pairs in class C in the 1989 Karrimor International Mountain Marathon - 2 days of navigating 26 miles round the Howgill Fells with a rucksack) - and vaguely aspire to run again in the future - but even then I couldn't see the attraction of watching people run round a track or chuck javelins or jump or whatever on telly for two weeks.

Not being a great fan of the Chinese regime I'm watching the impact of Stephen Spielberg's withdrawal from involvement in the staging of the Beijing games with interest. Hopefully there will be more such gestures to demonstrate to the government there that despite their economic and military power, there are people prepared to put pressure on them over their attitude towards human rights. We only have a narrow window to do this before they get so powerful that they can just ignore world opinion, so the Beijing games are perfectly timed.

I do however, wonder why Spielberg took so long to wake up to the nature of the regime he was dealing with. The reason he cites is Darfur, but surely Chinese support for the Sudanese, whilst reprehensible in itself, is less of a reason to shun them than what they actually do in their own country in terms both of the colonisation and oppression of Tibet over a 50 year period, and human rights abuses against political and religious dissidents?


Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

Luke I agree with every point you make (especially yoiur starter).

Influencing the Chinese is an opportunity we must take, but I also agree with Tessa Jowell that we should not not overplay thew hand and end up wqith boycots etc - that would actually be counter-productive.

My view on China in in line with Will Hutton, they actually need the West to help them through their stage in capitalism; thye are still potentially a great and productive partner in global markets, rather than the caricatured predatory neo-colonialists. We can choose to be a working and facilitating partner for China or we can choose the silly and and dangerous game so wanted by redundant cold warriors who 'need' a new 'enemy'.

9:54 am, February 15, 2008

Blogger Merseymike said...

I'm not convinced about boycotts either.

The mistake was giving it to Beijing in the first place.

But, we trade with these countries, so why expect our sportsmen and women to make a stand?

10:00 am, February 15, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

I can't understand why they gave the Olymics to China either. Too late to start boycotts now, it would be hypocrisy to pull out now.

The best boycott would not to watch it and to stop buying chinese rubbish in the shops. You power is in your pocket...use it.

What is worse was Browns visit to China...not a mention of human rights. Disgusting.

10:17 am, February 15, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Again I find myself in agreement with you on this one.

Speilberg should have known about Darfur and even if did'nt he deifinately should have known about Tibet.

That said Mike and Rich are right to point out most of the things we buy as private citizens are made in China and to expect our sportspeople to excercise a boycott to me seems hippocrital.

11:09 am, February 15, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I don't think they should boycott the Games but it would be great if athletes winning a medal wore a "Free Tibet" t-shirt when they got on the podium to receive it, or publicly signed a declaration condemning China's human rights record, for instance.

11:15 am, February 15, 2008

Anonymous Anonymous said...

presumably the arms manufacturers you lobby for boycott sales to the Chinese and Sudanese regimes.... I'd say stopping the sale of arms to them might be a very slightly more effective intervention than a boycott of the games, however desirable and worthy - yet ineffectual - that may be.

11:17 am, February 15, 2008

Anonymous ex blogger said...

The complexities of China's emergence from its troubled recent history are rather too great for a "free Tibet" slogan to be of much help. That's the trouble with sloganeering - it's inevitably banal. Reminds me of the anti-capitalism demonstrator holding the "replace capitalism with something nicer" banner once seen in London.

If we chose to boycott all the countries that do things of which we disapprove, we'd probably have to boycott every country including our own...

11:33 am, February 15, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

People forget their most powerful tool is their money. How people spend it is very important and I'm dismayed at the amount of people in this country who don't think.

Everyone in this world deserves a fair wage for the work they do, yet here we are 260 years on from our Industrial revolution buying products made by slaves. Buts it's ok because we don't see it and oh isn't it cheap.

Get real people, if you don't need it don't buy it. Support fair trade and support British workers.

As for arms dealers I can't find the words for these people. They are utter scum bags and would love to line them all up. I've witnessed hundreds young kids badly injured by land mines sold by British/ European arms dealers.

11:36 am, February 15, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

You presume correctly and even if a British based manufacturer wanted to sell military kit to either of these countries it wouldn't be allowed to by the British Government. There's a UN arms embargo on the Darfur region and EU and US arms embargos on China since Tiannanmen Square. France wants to drop the EU embargo on China, the UK supports it. The UK prohibits the sale of arms to any country that might use them for internal repression or external aggression.

11:42 am, February 15, 2008

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Just for Rich's benefit the question I was asked was because in my day job I give political advice to (amongst others) defence and aerospace manufacturers who make the kit our armed forces use. I feel the same way about "arms dealers" - people who peddle kalashnikovs and landmines in war zones or to dodgy regimes - as he does.

11:53 am, February 15, 2008

Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

A point made by Rich is quite true. We should support more fair-trade and also we should also campaign for better working conditions and pay for worker here and abroad.

I recommend people watch "The Corporation". It is an excellent film and points out what is so wrong with modern capitalism. The point Rich has made about international workers rights is one I (and I am sure most if not all of you) fully agree with and support.
I try to shop as ethically as possible. I avoid shops that I know use slave labour to make products and also avoid buying products from unscrupulous companies like Coca-Cola (in Columbia they got some right wing militia to murder trade unionists and as a trade unionist myself I decided to boycott their products).
However I’m unsure if I have made some purchases where some product, at some point may have been manufactured in sweat shops or in factories where workers are treated as slaves. The key here is labelling, it should be clear where it has come from and whether the people who manufacture it are paid a decent wage, have the right to form a union and have decent working conditions.

1:21 pm, February 15, 2008

Blogger AJF said...

I agree strongly with your point about a window of opportunity.

A BBC report on the Prime Minister's recent trip to china mused that perhaps the Government hoped that growing Chinese capitalism would bring other freedoms.

I think it is more likely that economic prosperity helps to pacify some of those that might otherwise be discontented, especially amongst the urban populace.

4:28 pm, February 16, 2008

Anonymous Rich said...

In China if you don't like there's is prison...that is how china rule.

Something like 7 million people are in prison in China...can't remember how many get the death penalty.

8:46 pm, February 16, 2008

Anonymous Clapton Ali said...

I like Luke's idea of athletes speaking out and wearing protest T-shirts in Beijing. But it could set a precedent for the following Olympics in 2012. Critics of the UK Government's foreign policy might feel entitled to use similar methods to disrupt the London Olympics.

And with no London Olympics to occupy him, what would poor old Cllr Guy Nicholson find to do?

11:49 pm, February 18, 2008

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