Citing China’s longstanding economic and military ties with the Republic of the Sudan and continued efforts to strengthen those ties in spite of an ongoing genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region, local Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters has filed a resolution calling for the United States to boycott the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Waters, who represents communities including Westchester, Hawthorne, Gardena and South Los Angeles in the 35th District, introduced House Resolution 628 August 4th, urging the President to take “immediate action” to boycott the Summer Olympics in China next year.
“The Olympics are extremely important in the world but nothing should trump genocide,” Waters said of her resolution. “People should have second thoughts about going to Beijing.”
The nonbinding resolution, introduced just before Congress left for its August recess, calls for the U.S. to boycott the Beijing Olympics unless the Chinese government publicly acknowledges and condemns the “atrocities taking place in Darfur.”
According to the resolution, the government of Sudan has been carrying out a campaign of genocide against the people of the Darfur region since 2003. Various reports indicate that more than 400,000 people have been killed and more than 2.5 million have been displaced in Darfur as a result of the genocide.
Waters’ resolution was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Barry Sanders, chairman of the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games, countered that Olympic boycotts do not achieve a political purpose but just punish the athletes. He referred to the effect on athletes at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, which the U.S. boycotted after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
“We think boycotts punish the athletes more than they punish any host city or country,” Sanders said. “It’s damaging to our athletes to tell them they can’t go to the Games. They’ve been training all their lives for it.”
While Sanders said the Committee for the Olympic Games opposes boycotts, he doesn’t expect the U.S. to follow through with the boycott.
In response to the impact a boycott would have on athletes training for the Olympics, Waters said sacrifices need to be made when it comes to stopping genocide.
“Sometimes we have to make sacrifices and this is what that’s all about,” Waters said.
The Democratic Congresswoman’s resolution came only a day after several House of Representatives Republicans, including South Bay Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, filed two resolutions also calling for an Olympic boycott next year.
Rohrabacher’s resolution also cites China’s longstanding ties with Sudan and the ongoing genocide in Darfur, but additionally refers to China’s involvement in other alleged human rights abuses within its own country and in Burma and North Korea.
The resolution compares the Beijing Olympics to the 1936 Olympics in Nazi-ruled Berlin, which showed that the integrity of the host country is “of the utmost importance so as not to stain the participating athletes or character of the Games.”
“The Olympics represent the noblest elements of humanity and the Chinese regime represents the opposite,” said Rohrabacher.
The resolution introduced by Waters cites several examples of China’s economic and military ties with Sudan, including purchasing 70 percent of the African country’s oil and exporting at least $24 million in arms and ammunition there.
Waters said she has strongly supported the House Resolution known as the Darfur Accountability and Divestment Act, which proposes to impose sanctions on the Government of Sudan and on corporations that continue to do business with the country.
China has been eagerly awaiting its chance to host the Summer Olympics and calling for a boycott of the games will send a powerful message to the world’s most populated country to change its ties with Sudan, the congresswoman said.
“This is something they don’t want to lose,” Waters said of China’s interest in the Olympics.
Asked why she believed calling for a boycott is a reasonable response to China’s relationship with Sudan, Waters said, “Nothing is more important than stopping genocide.”