The Oscar-winning director of Jaws and E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial had been enlisted by the Chinese government to lend the opening and closing ceremonies of the upcoming Beijing Olympics a little Hollywood razzle-dazzle. This week, he withdrew from that role, citing China's continuing support of the Sudanese government. "I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue with business as usual," he said in a statement.
At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies but doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur.China has defied intense international pressure to cease buying Sudanese oil and halt the sale of arms to the regime of Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Bashir's government is acccused of atrocities in the Darfur region of western Sudan.
This embarrassing public reprimand from a major international personality has predictably annoyed the Beijing government. The Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC responded with a statement of its own.
As the Darfur issue is neither an internal issue of China, nor is it caused by China, it is completely unreasonable, irresponsible and unfair for certain organizations and individuals to link the two as one.Mary-Anne Toy reports in the Australian daily The Age that a recent editorial published in People's Daily, the official newspaper of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, took a defiant tone toward critics of its Sudan policy:
Indeed, British Olympics Secretary Tessa Jowell and Culture Secretary Andy Burnham quickly denounced Spielberg's move as unhelpful. "Our position is always one of constructive engagement, working to improve the situation in the country and raise issues around the world and that’s what we will, as the Government, continue to do," said Burnham.
"The international community knows quite well that China has exerted a positive and constructive influence on the Darfur issue," the editorial said, pointing to the deployment of China's troops on the UN-African Union hybrid peacekeeping missions in Darfur. "No country has a perfect human rights record … the practice of politicising the Olympic Games will distort the Olympic spirit and will be denounced by peace-loving and sports-loving individuals all around the world."