China Rejects Attempt to Link Developments in Burma to Beijing Olympics

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy said yesterday that his government is working hard to stem the violence in Burma and argued against efforts by activists to link participation in the Beijing-based 2008 Summer Olympics to China's handling of Burma.

Linking the two is "totally irresponsible," Wang Baodong, spokesman for the Chinese Embassy, said at a hastily called news conference. He said that the Olympicmovement is based on "non-politicalization," and that China's "consistent stance is that irrelevant issues should not be linked to the Beijing Olympic games."

China proved sensitive to an earlier attempt by activists in the fight against genocide in Sudan's Darfur region to organize a campaign to boycott the Olympics. It responded by appointing a special envoy on Darfur and became more actively involved in seeking a settlement between the government and rebels.

China's sensitivity about similar calls to link developments in Burma to the Olympics was reflected by the embassy's decision to hold the news conference on a Chinese national holiday. Beijing has deep trade and business ties with the military junta that controls Burma, also known as Myanmar, and earlier this year joined Russia in vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have pushed Burma to ease repression and release political prisoners.

China, when it vetoed the U.N. resolution, pointed to the generally neutral stance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Burma is a member. But the association has turned against Burma, declaring last week its "revulsion" over the bloody government crackdown on demonstrators.

Wang said China helped to get a special U.N. envoy into Burma, and he described meetings on the crisis involving Chinese officials last week. He insisted that "in the last couple of days, the situation there appears to have some signs of relaxation."

[The U.N. envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, met today with Burma's senior general, Than Shwe, to discuss the crackdown, the Associated Press reported, citing a foreign diplomat who requested anonymity.]

In response to a question about whether China wanted Burma to reach out to detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Wang said: "We encourage the national reconciliation among the various parties of the country through peaceful means, and, of course, dialogue included."

In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly yesterday, Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win said his government is the victim of an international neocolonial effort to derail Burma's goal of establishing a "disciplined democracy."

"When protesters ignored their warnings," he said, government forces "had to take action to restore the situation. Normalcy has now returned to Myanmar."

Staff writer Colum Lynch at the United Nations contributed to this report.

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