eyes to Beijing's brutality
By Paul Schratz
Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan will have an extraordinary opportunity
later this week to put the rights of the disabled in full public
But don't hold your breath.
The disabled mayor has been named a torch-bearer at the 2008
Paralympic Games in Beijing Sept. 6-17, so expect Sullivan to get
lots of attention cruising around in his wheelchair, brandishing the
torch with some gizmo like the one that helped him wave the Olympic
flag at the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games.
Sullivan, who went to Beijing for the Summer Olympics and is staying
on for the Paralympics, will probably continue to find some lapses
in accessibility in Beijing, such as the bus stops, or the oversight
that left him without access to Canada Olympic House until
organizers constructed a last-minute ramp.
Yet Sullivan is an unlikely campaigner for full rights for the
disabled in a country whose communist ideology stresses the demand
for a healthy populace.
China's brutal one-child policy, forced sterilizations, bans on
disabled people marrying, and the routine abortion of fetuses with
disabilities, makes the country an odd choice for host of the
Of course the country was an odd choice for the Olympics to begin
with. There's no point listing the brutal human rights violations
the country is known for. The Games took place, everyone held their
noses, and all the talk in the aftermath is about whether London and
Vancouver can ever hope to compete with the spectacle that was
There's something more than a little disturbing, however, about
hearing such gushing from people who should know better.
Sullivan was on radio last week, being interviewed about the Games
and his reaction. "Everything impressed me," he said from Beijing.
The citizens were "engaged and so welcoming," he said, and on this,
his third visit to the country, Beijing looks more cosmopolitan than
The "culture of service" he found among the people was beyond what
anyone expected, he said. "This really has been their coming out to
the modern world."
Sullivan's accolades might sound naive, but what to make of his
thoughts on the oppressive nature of the government?
"It doesn't feel like a dictatorship," he told a reporter. "I turned
on the TV and I saw all the Western channels that were criticizing
China, and I thought this doesn't really square with the feeling
that people in the West have about what's going on in China. There
is a lot of openness."
Whether these are the words of gullibility or wilful ignorance, it
really does give one pause. The very day Sullivan arrived in
Beijing, former Canadian Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific David
Kilgour and David Matas, a human rights lawyer, released new
evidence about the continued murder of Falun Gong practitioners in
China for their organs, which are harvested for sale to Western
On the day the Olympics ended, before the visitors had even returned
home, the crackdown on human rights was back in full swing. Bishop
Julius Jia Zhiguo was arrested at his cathedral in Zhengding.
The 73-year-old bishop, who refuses to register with the Chinese
government and has been arrested 12 times since 2004, was hauled
away by police after he offered the Mass at the cathedral.
More than 1,000 Catholics attended, even though public security
officers had warned Catholics in the diocese to stay away from the
Now here's the ultimate irony. Bishop Jia runs an orphanage that
cares for disabled children, and there's speculation that his arrest
might have something to do with the upcoming Paralympic Games.
Dear Mayor Sullivan, while you're in Beijing appreciating its
cosmopolitan nature, would you please put in a word for Bishop Jia.
He isn't finding the culture of service up to standard lately.
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