Why isn't PM Harper attending Beijing Olympics? Is he trying to make a point?

Harper should attend 2008 Beijing Olympics, and promote the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver!

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been trying to woo the Canadian Asian ethnic vote by making an apology for the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act, and now for the Komagata Maru incident.  While both original actions were racist and unconscionable in retrospect… and the long overdue apology commendable… it would be plain silly for Harper to boycott the Beijing Olympics in his personal quest to call China on it's actions in Tibet.

So why would Harper slap the face of the homeland of Canada's biggest source of immigrants and our  largest trading partner?

Gabriel Yiu is a media commentator that I got to know as we both called for redress for the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act during the 2005/06 campaign.

He puts forward a very good argument for Harper to attend the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. So I link it here for you to read.

Gee… if Harper doesn't attend the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, would he be considering the Vancouver Olympics opening ceremony… provided he gets re-elected.  The same might not be so lucky for David Emerson, Harpers's newly appointed Foreign Affairs Minister, who is still beleaguered in his home constituency of Vancouver Kingsway. 

But if Emerson could change his mind about the Conservative Party, and if Harper could change his mind about Emerson, then maybe Harper could still change his mind about the Beijing Olympics.

Harper shouldn’t boycott the Beijing

Gabriel Yiu

Global Chinese Press column 9.7.2008

When David Emerson was appointed foreign affairs minister,
it was widely expected that the appointment could help restore Canada-China
relations.  Having someone who knows and has experiences dealing with
China is
certainly better than relying on any of Emerson’s predecessors.

However, if the Conservative government genuinely wants to
improve relations with China ,
a great opportunity has presented itself – the opening ceremony of the Summer
Olympics.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper should attend the Beijing
Olympics in person.  The Beijing Olympic Games is an historic event for
China and friends of
China from around the world are visiting
and participating in it.  If the prime minister of
Canada doesn’t grace the occasion with his
kind of “friend” to China
is Canada?

By now, over 80 heads-of-state have confirmed their attendance
of the August 8 Olympics opening ceremony in
Beijing . The list includes US President
George Bush, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas
Sarkozy, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Australian Prime Minister Kevin
Rudd and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda….

The prime minister of Britain
and the president of France
have reversed their earlier position of not attending the Beijing Olympics, so
even if Harper changes his stand and visits
China , it’s not disgraceful.

What is disgraceful is Harper’s excuse for his non-participation. 
Unlike the French president who cited
Tibet as the reason for the
boycott, our prime minister said that it is not the custom for a Canadian prime
minister to attend the Olympics.  Well, it’s a fact that former prime
ministers of Canada
had attended Olympic Games.  Besides, rather than just an excuse, what
kind of custom is that, and why do the Conservatives insist on sticking to it
and not follow the protocol of our western allies?

In fact, the prime minister of
Canada has better reasons to attend
Beijing Olympics than other heads of state.  First,
Canada is amongst the earliest western countries
which established formal diplomatic relations with
China . 
Canada recognized
China in 1970 — that was 38 years
ago — we’re old friends.  Equally important,
China is currently our second
largest trading partner.  Moreover, Canada
is the organizer of the 2010 Winter Olympics following
Beijing ’s 2008 Summer Olympics.

President Sarkozy of France
once said that his reason for not attending the Beijing Olympics is an
expression of boycott, to express dissatisfaction with
China ’s way of
handling the Tibetan riots. According to the same logic, Harper’s unwillingness
to participate would be seen as a boycott gesture.

President Bush said in his recent visit at the G8 Summit
that if he didn’t attend, it would be an “affront to the Chinese people.” 
Although I dislike Bush a great deal, I have to say that he is right this
time.  It’s because the Beijing Olympics is no longer a matter of face and
dignity just for the government of
China and its leaders. It is a
major event tugging at the heart of not only the Chinese in
China , but the
Chinese worldwide.

When the leaders of US,
UK and France all understand the symbolism
of their participation, why doesn’t our prime minister have the intelligence to
comprehend it?  For comprehend it he does not. What it shows is the same attitude
and hostility towards China
shown by Harper since he became prime minister.

Therefore, to those who expect that the appointment of
Emerson and a nice gesture to the new ambassador of
China can improve Canada-China relations,
I would say those are only small gestures more aimed at getting  the Chinese
vote than showing a change of Harper’s attitude.  After all, how many
times has Mr. Harper visited Israel ? 
Why hasn’t our prime minister paid a visit to our second biggest trading

If Harper is genuine in improving relations with
China , he
should take this opportunity to attend the Beijing Olympics. His sudden about-turn
would certainly signal a change, and would be appreciated and rewarded by
Beijing . The improved
relations would help resolve the current impasse on getting the Approved
Destination Status from China ,
and would bring in large number of Chinese travelers at the time of our
economic slowdown.

Remember, the key to improving Canada-China relations lies not
in our foreign affairs minister, but in our prime minister.

Also read Miro Cernetig's article

Why Canada and Vancouver need the Prime Minister to go to Beijing


2 thoughts on “Why isn't PM Harper attending Beijing Olympics? Is he trying to make a point?

  1. Anonymous

    Seeing apathetic or even hostile reactions toward the Tibetan protests by the Chinese population, the comment that the Beijing Olympic being “It is a major event tugging at the heart of not only the Chinese in China , but the Chinese worldwide.” is exactly why world leaders need to boycott the Beijing Olympics. We've all learned from history that placating to an authoritarian government never works. Left unchecked and without an opposing voice, the rampant ethnic pride will lead the entire Chinese population down a dangerous path. Ethnic pride should never under any circumstance be allowed to supersede democracy or civil rights.

  2. Anonymous

    Pride is one of the 7 deadly sins. Not just ethnic pride but also nationalistic pride. The Olympic games inspire not only nationalistic pride but also hope for world peace.
    Seeing countries such as Canada and the United States feature athletes whose ethnicities are world wide in origin, living in peace and as team mates… gives us hope against racial and ethnic prejudice.
    Yes, it is important for the world and its peoples to protest and draw attention to human rights violations and the right for “peaceful co-existence.” I compare the Chinese occupation of Tibet to the Israeli occupation of Jordan's West Bank, Egypt's Gaza Strip – which the United Nations openly condemned and asked for withdrawal from the occupied territories in UN Resolution 242.
    There have been many UN resolutions that have called attention to the invasion/”liberation” of Tibet by the Chinese. Unfortunately, as a permanent member of the Security Council, China employs their Veto power, and will not allow anything negative to be said about China.
    see: http://www.savetibet.org/advocacy/un/resolutions/index.php
    But the Olympic Games are also about promoting world peace and cooperation… aren't they?
    Isn't there a rule about stopping any wars by participating nations, and not having any political protests at the Olympic Games site?
    Doesn't the IOC argue that by awarding the Games to China, China has already had to conform to make changes and address challenges to human rights issues, but also to political and environmental issues?
    Will Stephen Harper's personal boycott of attending the Beijing Olympics help draw attention to the fact that the rest of the world disagrees with China's view of it's “liberation”/”illegal occupation” of Tibet.
    It is indeed amazing that the Chinese people easily follow the government media message about Tibet and do indeed believe that the Dalai Lama is evil, and that the liberation was necessary, and that Tibet is indeed part of China. If that was so… then why have so many Tibetans including the Dalai Lama been compelled to become refugees by fleeing their Chinese-occupied homeland?
    Here's an interesting article that is titled:
    10 Reasons to oppose all Olympic Games


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