Surely the negotiators who worked out the agreement to bring this summer’s Olympic Games to Beijing did not expect the great prestige of hosting the Games and their importance to the regime’s sense of self-respect would usher in a new era of human rights.
The world was rather harshly reminded of that by the widespread demonstrations and riots, often violent, in Tibet and in adjoining Chinese provinces, virtually in every town with a large Tibetan population.
The Chinese government reacted predictably to the unrest, barring reporters, shutting down Internet sites, blocking outside news channels like CNN and the BBC.
By midweek, the regular and paramilitary police seemed to have the situation under control, at a cost, the government says, of only 16 dead.
The Tibetan government in exile says, more believably, 99.
This has prompted some, mostly in Europe, to call for a boycott of the Games, which start Aug. 8, and failing that, a boycott of the Opening Ceremony.
Barring some really heinous act by China, this would be a mistake. It would be a deadly insult and humiliation to an insecure government that would not forgive or forget. China has spent $40 billion on the Games as a kind of coming-out party as a great power. It has required the government to open itself to the foreign press and unprecedented scrutiny.
If the Games were never going to usher in a new era of human rights, they are at least a strong nudge in that direction. Throwing the Chinese’s hospitality in their face would accomplish nothing.