Hit them where it hurts. China pressured over Burma

Pavel Vondra
5. 10. 2007 6:30
Olympic boycott touted if Beijing protects the junta
Can you see the connection?
Can you see the connection? | Foto: Pavel Vondra

Prague - Though far from being at the center of global power, Prague has been drawn into a world-wide campaign, a goal of which is to try and force China into making their wayward ally, Burmese military junta, stop violently suppressing pro-democracy demands of Burmese people.

Hundred or so activists and a handful of politicians appeared yesterday in front of the Chinese embassy in Prague's quiet diplomatic quarter to make some noise, metaphorically speaking.

So you want the games?

Amnesty International, People in Need and Burma Center Prague joined forces to stage a demonstration outside the guarded gates of the embassy compound where a clear message was sent towards the hiding Chinese diplomats: you and only you can make the Burmese generals understand that the repeat of the 1988 bloodbath is absolutely unacceptable.

Read more: Machine-gun rounds instead of democracy. Memories of 1988

Failing to do so, the activists believe, would mean China does not deserve to hold next year's Olympic Games as scheduled.

Voices calling for a boycott of the event are already growing louder and the memories of the Cold War era, when the Moscow Olympics in 1980 and the following games in Los Angeles four years later were affected by the escalating tensions between the United States and Soviet Union are coming back.

It is believed China wants to avoid such a scenario at all costs as it considers the upcoming Beijing Olympics a great opportunity to further improve its international standing.

Petition

The attempt to hand over a petition calling on the Chinese government to "join in a decisive manner the ongoing attempts to find a solution to the critical situation in Burma" failed as nobody answered the doorbell despite it being well within the office hours.

Nobody home? Jan Líska shrugging his shoulders, Sabe Soe of Burma Center Prague holding the unwanted petition
Nobody home? Jan Líska shrugging his shoulders, Sabe Soe of Burma Center Prague holding the unwanted petition | Foto: Pavel Vondra

"I can't say I am surprised. This has become a sort of a tradition with the Chinese diplomatic representation here. None of our previous petitions were received by them personally either," said one of the event's main organizers Jan Líska from the People in Need foundation.

He assured the people who came and signed the petition (there were over 160 signatures at the time), that the letter will be eventually delivered, one way or another.

Among the signatories of the petition are Jan Hamáček, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of Czech parliament, his deputy Tomáš Dub and seven other Czech legislators. Olympic champion in water slalom from the 1992 Barcelona games Lukáš Pollert also signed.

UN diplomacy

Whether the Chinese will take the call seriously is another thing. In the past they have blocked all attempts to pass a similar sounding resolution in the United Nations Security Council, claiming Myanmar (as the generals renamed the country) is a sovereign country perfectly capable of solving its "internal issues" on its own.

Mission impossible? (Ibrahim Gambari)
Mission impossible? (Ibrahim Gambari) | Foto: Devra Berkowitz/UN

Another round of UN diplomacy begins today (Friday) when UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari is to brief UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council on the outcome of his recent trip to Burma, where he met both the members of the military junta and the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi who has spent 12 out of the last 18 last under house arrest, imposed on her arbitrarily by the authorities.

Gambari and the junta's reclusive leader General Than Shwe sat in the same room together Tuesday for more than an hour in the newly built Burmese capital of Naypyitaw some 200 miles north of Rangoon.

Neither side has released details of the talks, although Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao issued a statement welcoming the meeting and calling it a "beneficial step".

 

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