Critics violate Games charter, says minister

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 March, 2008, 12:00am

Official claims cynics are politicising event

Mainland officials accused critics of the Beijing Games of violating the Olympic Charter by politicising the event, as Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said yesterday that China was a responsible stakeholder in international issues such as Africa's development and climate change.

Despite its ambition to further promote its international profile by staging the Games, China faces escalating pressure from overseas groups and politicians who advocate changes to policies on issues ranging from human rights to its engagement in global affairs.

Mr Yang said on the sidelines of the annual National People's Congress meeting that well-intentioned criticism and suggestions were welcome.

'But if they want to smear China ... they won't succeed,' he said. 'I want to point out that the Olympic Charter requires the Olympic Games not be politicised.

'Those who attack China often talk about the importance of laws and regulations. But why are they violating the Olympic Charter?'

China often rejects criticism, including recent negative assessments of its relationship with the Sudanese government regarding the civil war in Darfur, by accusing detractors of politicising the Games.

Mr Yang said he believed the international community in general did not want to politicise the event because it was supportive of China hosting the Games.

'It is just a handful of individuals and forces extremely unfriendly to China harbouring massive prejudices. They don't represent the whole international community,' the minister said.

Jean-Pierre Cabestan, head of Baptist University's department of government and international studies, said China had made some gestures in response to mounting criticism in the run-up to the Games.

'China's improved its public relations skills. But this is not going to change China's political system fundamentally,' Professor Cabestan said.

In response to increasing demands for the mainland to exert its rising power to engage more actively in international issues, Mr Yang said China was a responsible stakeholder but it would not 'serve some particular countries and forces'.

'At the same time, as a developing country, China cannot assume international responsibilities beyond its own capacity to bear,' he said. As another example, China, one of the world's biggest greenhouse gas producers, has been criticised for refusing to cap emissions. But Mr Yang said critics should also take into consideration that its per capita greenhouse gas output was much lower than that of developed countries.

'If we measure energy consumption per head from an 'everyone is equal' point of view, I think some people would refrain from pushing the view that China emits a huge amount [of greenhouse gases] as if they had the moral high ground,' he said.

Mr Yang also defended China's human rights record. He said the United States was clinging to a cold-war mentality on the issue.