A little while ago, I wrote about the rage I felt at visiting the “Ethnic Minorities” Park right across from the Olympic Village. What I saw there is really at the core of why I’m here in Beijing right now.
Seeing the singing, dancing Tibetans at the park reminded me of the Tibetans highlighted at the closing ceremonies of the Athens Games in 2004, when China briefly had the stage to showcase the next Summer Games. I was in New York with some fellow SFT activists and friends and I watched in horror â€“ I can’t call it disbelief because it was so predictable â€“ and tried to imagine what we would see in 2008. What sort of Tibetan song-and-dance routine would be at the center of the Beijing opening ceremonies? And then, oh God, when Steven Spielberg signed on as an “artistic advisor” to the Games (and was rumored to be “directing” the opening ceremonies), I knew it was bound to be spectacular.
Well, it was first reported about a week and a half ago that Steven Spielberg was considering quitting his post as artistic advisor to the Beijing Olympics, unless China takes a harder line against Sudan. A lot of articles credited his change of heart to an op-ed by actress and activist Mia Farrow in The Wall Street Journal.
It was hard not to wince when I read her question: “Does Mr. Spielberg really want to go down in history as the Leni Riefenstahl of the Beijing Games?” Ouch. That’s a harsh challenge to a man who has devoted so much time, energy, and money to remembrance of the Holocaust in order to assure such a tragedy will never occur again.
Only days after Mia Farrow’s editorial, Spielberg wrote an open letter to Hu Jintao. “I am writing this letter to you, not as one of the overseas artistic advisors to the Olympic Ceremonies, but as a private citizen who has made a personal commitment to do all I can to oppose genocide. â€¦ Accordingly, I add my voice to those who ask that China change its policy toward Sudan and pressure the Sudanese government to accept the entrance of United Nations peacekeepers to protect the victims of genocide in Darfur,” Spielberg wrote.
It’s encouraging to see Mr. Spielberg responding to the horrific situation in Darfur. I wish he would show the same concern for the cultural genocide in Tibet, which is being perpetrated not by militias in Sudan but by his direct Olympic partners in Beijing.
If Mr. Spielberg continues to serve as an artistic advisor to the Games, he will not only be associated with the genocide in Darfur but will be remembered for helping the Chinese regime whitewash its global image and strengthen its bogus claims over Tibet. China’s occupation of Tibet has led to the deaths of an estimated 1.2 million Tibetans, and millions more continue to suffer today under China’s rule. Mr. Spielberg owes it to the people of Tibet, as well as the people of Darfur, to show the moral integrity to quit his role in China’s offensive propaganda efforts around the Beijing Games.
He’s being given every chance to stand on the right side of history. I hope he chooses well.