Senate grouping announce support for political boycott of Beijing Olympics after visit by Tibetan filmmaker

Dhondup Wangchen

A group of Czech senators have publicly expressed their support for the visiting Tibetan filmmaker and former political prisoner Dhondup Wangchen’s appeal to boycott the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing. The Tibetan film director is currently touring Europe to highlight human rights issues in China in the context of the Olympics.

Dhondup Wangchen is a Tibetan director known for his documentary Leaving Fear Behind, in which he interivewed Tibetans on their views of the Chinese government in the year leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Wangchen was subsequently sentenced to six years of imprisonment by the Chinese government for subversion.

Ahead of the second Olympic Games to be hosted by Beijing, the Tibetan director is making a tour around Europe discussing his experiences and the views of Tibetans and other ethnic minorities in China in the context of the Olympics.

His message was warmly welcomed by a group of senators led by Deputy Speakers Jiří Růžička and Jiří Oberfalzer on Monday in Prague. The latter provided a statement in a subsequent press briefing in which he expressed full support for Mr Wangchen’s efforts.

“We believe, as he does, that having China host the Games is a mistake by the International Olympic Committee. Just as the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, or the Olympics hosted by the Soviet Union, this is an event serving primarily to propagate the regime that is hosting the games. It is a way to veer attention away from the totalitarian behavior that these countries are showing towards their own populations, minorities and other groups.

Photo: David J. Phillip,  ČTK/AP

“We consider the International Olympic Committee’s decision to have China host the games as exceptionally immature and fully support the efforts of director Wangchen to persuade democratic countries to politically ignore these Olympics.”

Mr Růžička added that the Czech Senate was one of the first chambers of parliament in the world to call for a political boycott of the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.

In his own statement, Mr Wangchen expressed his concern about the situation in Tibet and accused China’s leader Xi Jinping of behaving like a second Mao Tse-Tung.

“He has started to carry out policies, in a planned and systematic manner, to exterminate the Tibetan identity. It’s about language, faith and Buddhism. These Tibetan identities are being turned into a Chinese culture. We are facing the danger of cultural genocide and I am here to speak about this crisis going on in the view of the [upcoming] Olympics that portray a different picture of Tibet.”

The informal Friends of Tibet grouping has several dozen members within both chambers of the Czech Parliament from various political parties. Přemysl Rabas, the head of the Senate grouping, added the persecution of China’s Uyghur minority, the imprisonment of democratic opponents and the spreading of disinformation as reasons for why politicians should distance themselves from the upcoming Olympic Games.

This Tuesday, Mr Wangchen will also meet with the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Markéta Pekarová Adamová and members of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Czech lower house.

The Czech government stated in December that it will vote on whether the Czech Republic should politically boycott the Beijing Winter Olympic Games. If the country does decide to do so, it will follow the lead of the United States, the United Kingdom and several other English-speaking countries.