Polish prime minister Donald Tusk has said he would boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics. What measures should be taken by Polish politicians and athletes to protest against China’s crackdown in Tibet?
Michał Kubicki reports
Last week, President Lech Kaczyński urged China to start a dialogue with its Tibetan minority. In a statement, he said that only respect for human rights, including religious rights, can lead to a lasting, peaceful resolution of the conflict. The Speaker of the Senate, the Upper House of the Polish Parliament, invited the Dalai Lama to visit to Poland. In several Polish cities, demonstrations have been held against bloodshed and for a free Tibet.
A Member of the European Parliament, Marcin Libicki, head of the ‘Intergroup for Tibet’, has addressed an appeal to the Polish government and the Polish Olympic Committee urging the nation’s sportsmen to boycott the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony.
‘The possibility of boycotting the ceremony was raised by the President of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Poettering. He was supported by the vast majority of the speakers. A boycott of the entire Olympic Games would be to the detriment of the sportsmen but a refusal to attend the opening ceremony would surely be an act of protest against China's wicked actions in Tibet’.
Jaroslaw Wałęsa, a member of the Poland-Tibet group in the Polish Parliament, firmly believes that political pressure on China from the free world is necessary.
‘I believe it’s very important that heads of governments all over the world should convince the government of China that the Dalai Lama is no longer a private citizen. If we can make negotiations between the government and the Dalai Lama to start everything else will fall into place.’
But what about athletes? Various gestures of protest, if only to mention those by American athletes in Mexico City in 1968 or by Poland’s pole-vault gold medalist Kozakiewicz in Moscow in 1980 have earned their place in the history of the Games. According to Stanislaw Janecki, editor of the weekly Wprost, Polish athletes are unlikely to come up with anything spectacular this time.
‘Gestures will be noticed but it would be only empty gestures, without changing reality. I’m afraid Polish athletes will not protest in such a way. Maybe some will wear T shorts with the Dalai Lama or Free Tibet but nothing more impressive.’
The focus of attention these days is on Tibet but some analysts here stress that human rights violations in China are wide-ranging and that the free world should not forget about the ordinary people in China. Lukasz Warzecha of the daily Fakt:
‘Every day they fight for their country’s laws to be respected by the authorities. There are some very courageous Chinese lawyers who help people fight in courts for their ownership rights for instance. This is something that we should bring into focus for the world so that they see that in China we have laws and civic rights that are not respected by the authorities.’
The Polish Foreign Ministry would like the European Union to toughen its stand on China’s crackdown in Tibet. A high-ranking Ministry official has said in a press interview that the Chinese authorities made it clear that Warsaw’s gestures towards the Dalai Lama and Tibet may have a negative influence on the good relations between the two countries.