If China's Stalinist bureaucrats hoped the Olympic torch relay would draw attention away from their crackdown in Tibet, they must now be sorely disappointed. As the torch paraded through London on 6 April, its bearers were met by a succession of protesters, some of whom attempted to snatch and extinguish the flame.
After welcoming the flame — flanked throughout its journey by Chinese security drawn from a paramilitary organisation, the “People’s Armed Police”! — into Downing Street, Gordon Brown and Tessa Jowell issued restrained words of criticism against human rights abuses in China and Tibet.
Their words are meaningless cover for increasingly cordial relations with the brutal Chinese regime. We should not allow Brown’s weasel words of criticism to mask what the London parade was really all about: boosting Beijing and its global aspirations. Rather than being the “journey of harmony” touted by China, for them the torch relay was little more than a shameless promotional opportunity.
China’s population — approximately one third of the world’s total — is oppressed by a vicious dictatorship. Under normal circumstances human rights and independent workers’ organisations suffer from persecution, harassment and arrest. In the run-up to the Olympics, any and all opposition will be crushed. The already hyper-exploited Chinese workers and oppressed minorities will face even greater restrictions.
The first duty of socialists in Britain is to expose China for what it really is. To do otherwise is to remain silent on a regime that in scale is the biggest oppressor on the planet — a regime headed by a self-reproducing clique of vicious bureaucrats.
The Chinese leadership knows full well the fate of its Stalinist counterparts in other parts of the world. China’s rulers seem convinced that by binding themselves to the world economy and maintaining repressive measures at home, their regime will escape this fate. The pageantry around the Olympics helps them realise this goal.
But they forget one thing: however much they build economic relations abroad, however much they are assisted in their global charm offensive by the likes of Gordon Brown, however much they grind down opposition at home, the Chinese working class will continue to grow.
And those fighting for self-determination in Tibet — as with the Tienanmen square protesters almost twenty years ago — show that resistance is possible. A free Tibet and international solidarity with Chinese workers will defeat China's Stalinist rulers! That day cannot come too soon.