Protesters have come in full force to disrupt this event. From Paris to London, the world has to come to witness several people trying to grab the Olympic Torch. The protesters targeted this event as a venue to ventilate their sentiments regarding China’s treatment of the unrest that had erupted in Tibet last month where China sent its paramilitary forces to crackdown on the Tibetan protesters (“China’s View of the Olympic Torch”. 09 April 2008. TIME Magazine online). This has led to protest calls from various sectors especially in Western countries.
Some clamor by asking China to stop its heavy handed treatment of dissenters in Tibet while others like Hillary Clinton have asked their governments to boycott the Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies as a strong disapproval of Beijing’s standing policy with regard to Tibet. This issue can be seen as part of a long standing question in international relations (“Clinton urges Bush to boycott Beijing Olympics”. 7 April 2008. Yahoo News). The question being, should individuals from other countries be involved in another country’s problems?
To be able to generate an answer to this question, one must define the parameters for the terms individuals, involvement and problems. In the case of the individuals, there are two kinds that are pertinent to this discussion. These are the private citizens and the public officials. The ordinary citizens include those who try to disrupt the proceedings by attempting to wrest the Olympic torch and by displaying the Tibetan flag are examples of what are known as private citizens. Public officials refer to politicians in other countries that are expressing their dissent over the policies of other countries.
Involvement is defined here as the actions done by the identified individuals. This may include cajoling, beseeching or pressuring officials through such acts disrupting the events or by issuing officials statements condemning the policies of the country in question. Problems, due to space constraints and timeliness, would be limited to issues on human rights. This issue is one of the most important points of contention between Western countries especially the United States and other nations such as China and Russia in recent years.
This paper argues that involvement in issues such as human rights should be limited to the actions done by private citizens and that public officials should refrain from issuing official statements that criticizes the policies of other government’s with regard to human rights. Why is this so? If one is to look at the recent track record of the US government regarding the issue of human rights, one would find sufficient ammunition to fire back to the US side of the fence.
The well-documented infamous cases of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prison camps highlight the abuses that are also taking place within the backyard of the United States. Theses cases have led some officials from both China and Russia to criticize the alleged double standards being practiced by the United States in its dealings with other countries. China and Russia often challenge the US claims made through official State Department reports regarding their respective human rights record (Cody A14).
In a nutshell, they argued that before the US issues such official statements it should first see to it that its own house is in order. One could also consider the lack of efficacy of these official calls on these countries to reform. It had only infuriated them and their existing policies on human rights have not changed despite these repeated calls. Also, these official statements have contributed to making negotiations in other important areas such as security and trade even more difficult at best and highly contentious at worst.
Now if one is to engage in involvement, one can argue that it would be best left in the hands of private citizens. This is warranted for several reasons. In an era where there have been numerous cases of human rights of abuses, there is a recognizable need to highlight this particular issue. The private citizens at this point are in the best position to do it for two reasons. One is that they are not burdened by the labels of hypocrisy and lacking in moral authority that have been attached to the US government in the aftermath of its prison camps fiasco.
When an individual like Steven Spielberg protests by declaring himself unavailable to be a technical consultant for the Beijing Games he is not labeled as hypocrite and his message is delivered to the public. Two, private citizens who exhibit involvement; especially in the form of very dramatic forms of protests can get their much desired media mileage. They consequently derive public sympathy for their respective causes as well. One could cite the case of Olympic medalist Sebastian Coe who was manhandled by the paramilitary forces assigned by Beijing to protect the Olympic torch(“China’s View of the Olympic Torch”. April 2008. TIME Magazine online). The incident involving him generated substantial media attention on the protest against the Chinese government’s action on Tibet while not causing any direct problems among government officials. The protests done by ordinary citizens if carried by major news outfits can generate support from around the world without exactly obliging their governments to issue officials statements that can adversely affect immediate and long-term relationships with countries whose policies are being questioned.