China: No Politicizing Our Olympic Games

Decorations showing athletes are seen on the Beijing 2008 Project Display Center, May 14, 2007 in Beijing, China.
Attempts to politicize Beijing's Olympic Games next year by linking them to the Darfur crisis in Sudan or other issues are doomed to fail, China's Foreign Minister warned Friday.

"There are a handful of people who are trying to politicize the Olympic Games," Yang Jiechi said at a press briefing with visiting British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett. "Their objectives ... will never be attained."

China's leadership has been widely criticized for not using its influence to do more to stop the escalating violence in Darfur.

A campaign to use the Olympics to put pressure on Beijing to intervene in Sudan has been gathering steam in recent weeks.

China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, buys two-thirds of Sudan's oil exports and sells the African country weapons and military aircraft. It has blocked efforts to send U.N. peacekeeping forces to Darfur without Sudanese consent.

Last week, a group of U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to China's president suggesting that unless China changes its policies in Sudan, the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games could become a public relations disaster for the Chinese, rather than the image enhancer Beijing is expecting.

During the recent presidential race in France, French politicians floated the idea of an Olympic boycott and American actress Mia Farrow has also called on corporate sponsors of the Games to pressure China to do more to help stop the violence in Darfur.

A campaign launched by New York-based activist Jill Savitt called 'Olympic Dream for Darfur' has announced plans on its Web site for a torch relay from Darfur to Beijing to "urge China to use its influence with Khartoum."

Yang said that Beijing officials were in touch with the Sudanese.

"The Chinese government, Chinese leaders and officials of the Chinese government at various levels are now in close touch and contact with relevant parties concerned," Yang said. "We hope that this issue will be resolved properly through dialogue and negotiation."

He said China believes "the political process and the peacekeeping operation should be pursued and promoted in a balanced manner."

More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million made homeless in four years of bloody attacks from Arab militias allegedly sponsored by President Omar al-Bashir's government.

The attacks began after black African Sudanese rose to demand autonomy for the vast western Sudan region.

  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.