New York Times: Rohrabacher Condemns Bush’s Decision to Attend Opening Ceremonies in Beijing
Washington, Jul 4, 2008 - The White House said Thursday that President Bush would attend the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics next month, a decision fraught with international political symbolism that quickly drew criticism from advocates for human rights.
The advocates have been pressing world leaders to boycott the Olympics or at least skip the opening ceremonies to protest China’s violent crackdown after riots in Tibet and its support for the government of Sudan, whose Darfur region remains enmeshed in violence.
The leaders of Britain and Germany have said they will skip the opening ceremonies. For some time, the White House has said that Mr. Bush will attend the Games, but has refused to provide further details.
That changed late on Thursday afternoon. With most of official Washington already gone for the Fourth of July holiday, the White House press secretary, Dana Perino, issued a simple statement outlining Mr. Bush’s August travel schedule, including the notation that he would go to the opening ceremonies.
“This is a decision by the president that he really wanted to go in support of our athletes,” Ms. Perino said in an interview. Asked if Mr. Bush was making a political statement, she said, “He does not look at it that way, but we recognize that others may.”
Other world leaders have wrestled with question of attending the opening ceremonies. Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain found a neat solution: he will be at the closing ceremony to pick up the torch for the symbolic handoff to London, the host of the 2012 games. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, will not attend, although German officials who announced her decision said it was not a political statement.
President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, who has waffled on whether he would attend, said earlier this week that he would make his final decision contingent on progress in talks between the Chinese and representatives of the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet. But on Thursday, China bluntly told Mr. Sarkozy to stay home.
“Chinese people do not want the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics,” the state newspaper China Daily said, citing an Internet survey by Sina.com.cn.
The White House announcement drew a rebuke from officials at Save Darfur, a nonprofit organization that accuses China, Sudan’s biggest trading partner, of failing to use its influence to stop fighting between rebels and militias in Darfur, where at least 200,000 people have been killed, according to published mortality surveys, and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes in what the White House terms a genocide.
“We are deeply disappointed,” the coalition’s president, Jerry Fowler, said.
On Capitol Hill, some lawmakers, led by two representatives — Neil Abercrombie, Democrat of Hawaii, and Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California — have urged a boycott of the Games. In a telephone interview from California, Mr. Rohrabacher accused the president of timing the announcement so that reaction from members of Congress would be muted.
“I think that a president who has said we are conducting warfare in different parts of the world in order to promote democracy and human rights loses credibility when he announces that he is going to attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in a country that is the world’s worst human rights abuser,” Mr. Rohrabacher said.
Mr. Bush has long said that the United States and China have a “complex relationship,” and as president he has found it difficult to balance.
After accepting an invitation from President Hu Jintao of China to attend the Olympics, Mr. Bush met publicly with the Dalai Lama — a step the Chinese regarded as a poke in the eye. After the Chinese cracked down in Tibet during violent antigovernment protests, Mr. Bush pressed Mr. Hu to restart talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives. Those talks are now under way, though Ms. Perino said that was not why Mr. Bush decided to attend the opening ceremonies.
“I wouldn’t say there was a quid pro quo,” she said.
Original News Article: New York Times