By Edward Cody
Saturday, March 8, 2008; Page A11
BEIJING, March 7 — Liu Guijin, China’s special envoy for Sudan, was fielding yet another question Friday on Darfur and the Olympics. Politics have no place in the Olympics, he told reporters, and it violates the Olympic spirit to claim that China has a duty to do more in the embattled western Sudanese region because Beijing is hosting the 2008 Games.
China’s special envoy to Darfur Liu Giujin (front) speaks during a joint press conference with Sudanese Foreign Minister Deng Alor (back) following a meeting in Khartoum on February 24. Giujin on Wednesday urged the international community to step up peace efforts in the war-torn region and advised its ally Sudan to do more to cooperate with world powers.(AFP/File/Isam al-Haj)
But this time, Liu had a new argument in his briefcase: President Bush agrees with China on this point. So does British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, he said, not to mention French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Those world leaders have announced their willingness to attend a gala opening ceremony Aug. 8, he noted. If people of that caliber think Darfur is no reason to take the joy out of the Beijing Olympics, he suggested, then the human rights activists and Darfur campaigners must be out of line.
“More and more spokesmen and public figures have decided that politicization of the Olympic Games is not compatible with the Olympic spirit and that the Darfur question has no connection to the Olympic Games,” he said.
Liu’s comments, at a Foreign Ministry briefing, marked the latest salvo in a belated but increasingly active public diplomacy campaign by the Chinese government. In news conferences, statements and widely publicized actions, it has begun to duel openly with U.S. and European activists who assert that hosting the Games bestows on China a responsibility to improve its human rights record and work more forcefully to end the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.
“Their attitude will go nowhere,” Liu said.
Citing the decisions by Bush and other Western leaders also demonstrated how much comfort the Communist Party has taken in their willingness to overlook China’s problems and join in a celebration that will focus on the remarkable progress here over the past three decades.
A Chinese worker cleans the Beijing Olympic countdown digital clock on display outside the national museum near the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, Thursday, March 6, 2008. Finishing touches on the centerpiece venue of the Beijing Olympics are taking longer than expected, delaying completion by a month, a state-run newspaper reported Thursday. Preparations for the opening and closing ceremonies of the games have interrupted work at the ‘Bird’s Nest’ National Stadium, and it will not be completed until the end of April, the China Daily said, citing Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice president of the Beijing Olympics organizing committee.(AP Photo/Andy Wong)
For the party, such international recognition that China is doing well under its stewardship is the main benefit of hosting the Olympics, according to Kang Xiaoguang, a sociologist and researcher at Tsinghua University. In that sense, the party itself has found political meaning in the Games. But it has moved to rebut those who seek to inject other political agendas less to its liking, including human rights and Darfur.