Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir Being Greeted By Chinese Official After Arriving in Beijing for the Sino-African Summit
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire Photo File
BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese state media accused Western countries on Thursday of abusing the Olympic Games to pressure Beijing, saying boycotts by movie director Steven Spielberg and others "disgusted" the Chinese people.
The Hollywood director quit as an artistic adviser to the Beijing Games in August, saying China was doing too little to help halt bloodshed in Sudan's Darfur region, where Khartoum-linked militia have battled rebel groups.
Nine Nobel Peace laureates also wrote to Chinese President Hu Jintao urging he change policy towards Sudan, where China has big oil investments. Beijing has often said it is working for peace in Darfur.
While China's Foreign Ministry and the Beijing Olympic organisers have so far not commented on this volley of criticism, the Global Times -- a current affairs tabloid run by the Communist Party's People's Daily -- hit back.
"Western exploitation of the Olympics to pressure China immediately provoked much disgust among ordinary Chinese people," the paper said.
"The vast majority of Chinese people have expressed bafflement and outrage at the Western pressure. In their view, it's absolutely absurd to place the Darfur issue, so many thousands of miles away, on the head of China."
Even Chinese citizens who complain about losing homes to Olympics Games building opposed Western pressure, the paper said.
Jin Canrong, an international relations expert at the People's University of China in Beijng, told the paper that the renewed criticism over Darfur showed Western powers were exploiting their "media hegemony" to whip up prejudice.
"Whoever uses this humanitarian issue to criticise China and put pressure on China gains something of a halo," Jin told the paper. "The West has seized on China's tremendous emphasis on the Olympic Games to criticise China."
Some 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes in more than four years of conflict in Sudan's western region of Darfur, according to estimates by international experts. Khartoum puts the death toll at 9,000.
The Chinese embassy in Washington, while not directly referring to Spielberg's decision, called on "relevant parties" to respect the facts about the "positive role played by China on the Darfur issue" and shy away from politicising the Olympics.
"As the Darfur issue is neither an internal issue of China, nor is it caused by China, it is completely unreasonable, irresponsible and unfair for certain organisations and individuals to link the two as one," the embassy said.
A spokesman for the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games had no immediate reaction to Spielberg's announcement.
China 'regrets' Spielberg action
China has expressed regret over film director Steven Spielberg's decision to pull out as artistic adviser to the Beijing Olympics over the Darfur issue.
The foreign ministry said "ulterior motives" may be behind criticism of its links with Sudan.
The director said his conscience would not allow him to continue in his role.
China has strong economic and military ties with Sudan, which campaigners say it should use to put pressure on Khartoum to resolve the Darfur crisis.
A UK newspaper has published a letter from 80 Nobel laureates and artists urging Beijing to help end the conflict.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said: "We have taken notice that recently there have been many controversies and actions involving China and Darfur.
"It is understandable if some people do not understand the Chinese government policy on Darfur, but I am afraid that some people may have ulterior motives, and this we cannot accept," he told a news conference.
"China is also concerned about the humanitarian situation in Darfur. [But] empty rhetoric will not help. We hope that relevant people will be more pragmatic."
Beijing says it has appointed a special envoy to Darfur and sent peacekeepers to the region. But many, including Steven Spielberg, say that is not enough.
At least 200,000 people have died and two million forced from their homes in the five-year conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, where pro-government militia are accused of widespread atrocities.
Sudan denies backing the Janjaweed militia and says the suffering in Darfur has been exaggerated.
Sudan sells some two-thirds of its oil to Beijing, while Beijing sells weapons to the Sudanese government and has blocked efforts to pressure Khartoum in the UN Security Council.
Campaigners say arms sold by China to the Sudanese government that have been used in Darfur.
Mr Spielberg's announcement late on Tuesday is Beijing's first big setback in staging the Olympics, analysts say.
The renowned director, who had been brought in as artistic adviser for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games, said his conscience would not allow him to continue in the role.
"Sudan's government bears the bulk of the responsibility for these ongoing crimes, but the international community, and particularly China, should be doing more," he said.
Adding to the pressure, British newspaper the Independent has published on its front page the full text of a letter signed by 80 Nobel laureates, politicians and artists to Chinese President Hu Jintao urging greater action on Darfur.
Signatories include South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu, US former Senator Bill Frist and British playwright Tom Stoppard, as well as a host of former Olympians.
The letter, released by campaigning group Crisis Action on 12 February, said China had both the opportunity and the responsibility to help bring peace to the troubled region.
"Ongoing failure to rise to this responsibility amounts, in our view, to support for a government that continues to carry out atrocities against its own people," the letter said.
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Published: 2008/02/14 09:35:47 GMT