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Talk about human rights: Issue of China Olympics Float In U.S Rose Parade

Posted by Author on October 16, 2007

by Kenneth C. Hardy, Chair, City of Pasadena Human Relations Commission, Via Pasadena Star-News, CA, U.S. 11 Oct 2007-

The city of Pasadena Human Relations Commission recently issued a report regarding the controversy over the issue of human rights in China and the presence of a float commemorating the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the upcoming Rose Parade. The Commission recommended that the City Council: 1. Issue a statement promoting human rights improvements in China and 2. Talk with float opponents and supporters to discuss the furtherance of human rights.

The recommendations have upset some people. We review the commission’s rationale here so the public may understand it.

We disagreed that the matter was outside the city’s jurisdiction or competence. The city has previously reacted to issues beyond its borders. It adopted a purchasing policy boycotting businesses tied to apartheid South Africa. Last year it passed a resolution against a federal bill proposing harsh amendments to immigration law. And by entering into a sister-city relationship with the Xicheng District of Beijing, the city has already stepped outside its borders and within those of the nation whose human rights record is questioned. And China has stepped within ours via the officially approved float.

Now to the heart of the matter. There was no serious challenge to the fact of serious human rights violations in China. We received statements from protestors and float supporters and reviewed reports issued by Amnesty International, the U.S. State Department and other credible entities. The reports document illegal imprisonments, torture, repression of religious and press freedom and other injustices.

What particularly troubled us, however, was the lack of concern with these issues – intentional or unintentional – exhibited by most Chinese supporters of the float. Most of them dismissed the complaints as the “political opinion” of protesters and not appropriate for discussion. Others simply reported good experiences in China.

Certain fundraisers stated that the protesters represent small dissent groups and not the majority of Chinese who are “very happy for China.” The chair of Pasadena’s Sister Cities Committee stated that our recommendation was “foolish” and that “if we were lily-clean, we might have the right to take a stand. All it does is stir up a tempest in a teapot.”

These statements are troubling. We acknowledged the importance of cultural and national pride and its place in the hosting of the Olympics. We recognized the economic strides China has made and the difficulty of analyzing human rights issues, especially in other nations. But none of these prior statements or the aforementioned complexities justify refusal to even broach the subject of human rights.

To equate expressed concerns over illegal imprisonment and torture as mere political opinions – even if one believes the Olympics has nothing to do with politics – suggests a profound insensitivity to the plight of fellow Chinese.

To say the Olympics has nothing to do with human rights is incorrect. The Olympic Charter proclaims that the “goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity,” and that any “form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.” These values are the very ones enshrined in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

We did not understand why one’s own good experience in China should logically preclude concern for others who suffer. And since when did the measure of morality and justice merely depend on majority view? If only we could ask the 10 percent of the population enslaved in early America.

Although the desire for justice often burns brightest in the hearts and minds of victims of injustice, the true test of progressive development is whether such desire attaches to the hearts and minds of those who are not victims.

Finally, to justify inaction due to the unclean hands of the U.S. exhibits a seemingly false and self-serving humility that flips moral responsibility on its head. China’s human rights issues are very much worse than ours. And rather than be silent, we must be vigilant about human rights issues at home and, when necessary, abroad. To equate the false imprisonment and torture of human beings as a “tempest in a teapot” is appalling.

The commission did not ask the City Council to seek rejection of the float or the discontinuation of its sister-city relationship. It asked the City Council to voice concerns and take some action over principles that we are supposed to cherish.

Kenneth C. Hardy

Chair, City of Pasadena Human Relations Commission

Pasadena

– Original report from Pasadena Star-News : Don’t sell out principles

One Response to “Talk about human rights: Issue of China Olympics Float In U.S Rose Parade”

  1. Thank you for posting this.

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