Prince Charles and the Beijing Olympics

Saturday, 26 January 2008

There has been tremendous press speculation today about the reasons Prince Charles will not be attending the Beijing Olympics.

Free Tibet Campaign would like to clarify how this story came to appear in today's Daily Telegraph.

Late last year the Telegraph reported that the new Chinese Ambassador to the UK, Madame Fu Ying, was on a mission to charm Prince Charles (traditionally a critic of China's human rights record), with a particular view to persuading the Prince of Wales to accept an invitation to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing games.

Although it seemed unlikely to Free Tibet Campaign that Prince Charles, a longstanding friend to the Dalai Lama and Tibetan people, would accept such an invitation, we were alarmed.

We knew the Prince of Wales must be all too aware of the propaganda victory his attendance as a Guest of Honour at the Beijing Olympics would represent for the Chinese Government. The promises made by China to the International Olympics Committee when Beijing was awarded the Olympics in 2001that substantial inroads would be made in improving human rights in both China and Tibet have failed to materialise. If anything, as the Olympics rapidly approach, the situation is deteriorating.

We wrote to Clarence House before Christmas, seeking confirmation that Prince Charles would not be attending the Olympics.

We received a reply in which the Prince's close interest in Tibet was restated and were told he would not be attending the Beijing Olympics. We then contacted the Daily Telegraph journalist who wrote the original story to update him with what we learnt.

We do not know if the decision by Prince Charles to decline any invitation to attend the Beijing Olympics was based on his concern about the atrocities perpetrated in occupied Tibet. Only The Prince knows the answer to this. In general, his views on China's human rights record are well known.

Athletes have no choice about where they will compete. It is not their fault the International Olympic Committee awarded this year's Olympics to one of the world's most repressive regimes.

However, the many high profile public figures who have received invitations from the Chinese government to attend the Games do have a choice: go and in so doing give tacit approval to human rights being swept under the carpet in China and Tibet or make the principled decision to stay at home.

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