So I've been getting a bit of grief from a few people for choosing to boycott the Olympics this year. I'd like to defend my position. The most common argument I've been getting is that not watching the Olympics won't bring the Tibetan people any closer to autonomy or independence and therefore it's just a waste of time - I may as well just watch them and enjoy it. This, I believe, is a completely bogus argument. But let me start from the beginning and give you all a short (ish) history of Tibet and the injustices that went on there in case you don't know much about the situation.
Tibet rests on the borders of Nepal, India, China, and Bhutan and is the highest country in the world but it won't be found on most contemporary maps because of China's claim on the country. Tibet became a protectorate of China in the early 18th century but until 1949 enjoyed de facto independent status and kept its language, culture, religion, government, and it paid no taxes to China. However, in 1949 the Communist party invaded Tibet under the guise of liberating the people. Tibetan Buddhists are traditionally extremely non-violent and those defending Tibet were equipped with muskets and bows and arrows.
In May of 1951 a 17-point agreement was signed by the two governments. This agreement stated that Tibet would formally recognize Chinese sovereignty for the first time in history, but would still enjoy complete autonomy. The Chinese government would not interfere with Tibetan relations at all unless it dealt with international affairs or the defense of Tibet.
This agreement was quickly violated by the Chinese and in 1959 a Tibetan uprising was brutally suppressed by the Chinese and the Dalai Lama (the political and spiritual leader of Tibet) was forced to flee for his life. He hasn't been back to Tibet since. Since then, the Chinese government has (except briefly during the 1980s) used tactics such as ethnic cleansing and forced assimilation to eradicate the Tibetan culture, language, and religion. Ethnic Chinese have poured into Tibet turning Tibetans into an ethnic underclass. Over 1 million Tibetans have been brutally murdered since the Chinese invasion, many of them monks and nuns.
With the decision to hold the 2008 Summer Olympics in China, protests around the world have erupted and Tibet has been at the head of these protests. Tibetans are being repressed, kidnapped, tortured, and killed all so China can get rid of any opposition that would deface their growing reputation as a world power. In addition, the Chinese people aren't able to access unbiased information regarding this subject because of the regulation of the media by the Communist government.
Basic human rights have been violated for decades in this and other regions of the world by the Chinese government, and to me, the decision to hold the Olympics in Beijing says that the world (or at least the Olympic Committee) is either choosing to ignore this fact or stating that it is alright. Neither of these messages are messages that I want to support. And for those of you who decide to watch the Olympics because you want to support the athletes or even just because you like watching the Olympics, I think that's a great thing to do. I only ask you to look a bit into the controversy. Not only in Tibet but all over the nation of China.
So yes, my choice to not watch the Beijing Olympics probably won't take Tibet (or Taiwan or Xinjiang) closer to true autonomy or independence, but maybe if ratings go down enough, a message will be sent to the Olympic committee and even China that this kind of brutal governance is absolutely unacceptable. You never know what event may spark revolution.