The same authoritarian regime that is desperately trying to put on a friendly face for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing recently detained and then deported Colorado resident Kirsten Westby and four other Americans.
Their only offense was peacefully displaying a banner saying "One World, One Dream, Free Tibet 2008" on the Tibetan side of Mount Everest.
The slogan, targeting China in protest of its more than 50 years of occupation of Tibet, was a clever play on Beijing's own cynical slogan for the Olympics: "One World, One Dream."
China richly deserves much more of this kind of bad publicity.
Indeed, the 2008 Olympics in Beijing provide an excellent opportunity for other Coloradans, including elected officials, to help shine some light not just on China's oppressive occupation of Tibet, but also Beijing's economic and political complicity in the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.
For instance, Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff's House Bill 1184 would direct Colorado's public pension funds to divest from certain companies that do business in Sudan.
The bill is an important, though largely symbolic, gesture against the genocide being perpetrated by the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum against non-Arab tribespeople in Darfur.
But the thugs in Khartoum don't really need the investment of American states.
Professor Eric Reeves of Smith College, a Sudan expert, refers to China as "an economic powerhouse that allows the Khartoum regime to largely ignore economic pressure from the rest of the world."
According to a March 2007 report from the Washington D.C.-based Heritage Foundation, "Beijing has at least $3 billion invested in the Sudanese energy sector, for a total of $10 billion since the 1990s."
China's huge investment in Sudan oil, in turn, helps fund the genocide in Darfur.
As the Heritage report continues, "Khartoum has doubled its defense budget in recent years, spending 60 percent to 80 percent of its estimated $500 million in annual oil revenue half from China on weapons. Some of these weapons find their way to the conflict in Darfur. Moreover, with Chinese assistance, the Sudanese government recently built three weapons factories, complicating international arms embargos against Khartoum."
Additionally, China provides Khartoum helpful political cover at the United Nations.
In 2006, China abstained from UN Security Council Resolution 1706, which authorized deployment of troops and civilian police into Darfur to provide security against the genocide.
China also used its veto power to force language into the resolution that requires the consent of the same Khartoum regime whose mass murder in Darfur created the need for an international security force in the first place.
As Professor Reeves plainly states on his Web site (sudanreeves.org), "It is time for China to recognize that it cannot be a legitimate host of the 2008 Olympic Games while remaining complicit in Darfur's genocidal destruction."
China's absurd response to a Colorado woman engaging in peaceful protest on a mountain in Tibet shows just how easily the regime in Beijing can be goaded into transforming its own worst authoritarian impulses into an international spectacle.
And while there is only so much an American state can do to impact international affairs, any Colorado lawmakers who want to build on Speaker Romanoff's divestment bill should keep in mind that the road to Darfur runs through the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
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