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China garners dubious moral support for Tibet crackdown

China has announced that around 100 countries have voiced moral support for its recent actions against Tibetan protestors (Tibet's exile government claims 130 protestors have died). Xinhua, China's state news agency, ran a list of some of the said 100 countries (more here) -- and oh, what a list it is.

Highlights include:

  • North Korea and Turkmenistan: both of whom actually managed to do worse than China in the Worldwide Press Freedom Index last year.
  • Côte d'Ivoire: the number six Failed State (2007), dubbed "one of Africa's most dangerous countries for both local and foreign media" by Reporters Without Borders.
  • Syria and Belarus: both recently proclaimed as among the worst human rights offenders by the U.S. State Department -- again, outdoing China.

In a list like this, the inclusion of Serbia actually seems to improve legitimacy levels.

Though the list may seem unsavory, Xinhua explains in a story today that German, British, and American media are actually full of lies. Through a series of "truth" and "lies" stills taken of Western media coverage of the recent riots, Xinhua makes a good case for why support from an up-and-coming superpower like Lesotho is far more valuable than say, a vote of confident from Nancy Pelosi.

(Thanks to Passport reader AS for the tip.)

Passport

France mulls partial Olympic boycott

Milos Bicanski/Getty Images

This morning's Olympic torch-lighting ceremony in Greece was disrupted by protesters from the Paris-based media rights groups Reporters Without Borders. The bad publicity was exactly the kind of thing that Beijing was hoping (unrealistically) to avoid in the run-up to this summer's games, but also highlights a growing debate in France over whether the country should take action to voice its disapproval of China's human rights record.

RSF (the organization's French acronym) has proposed that France boycott the Games' opening ceremony. A poll published in today's Libération newspaper and sponsored by RSF found that 53 percent of respondents liked the idea of President Nicolas Sarkozy skipping the event. A separate poll in the sports magazine L'Equipe had nearly identical results. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he found the idea "interesting" last Tuesday but then quickly backtracked several hours later:

There are a lot of good ideas that can't be put into practice [...] When you're dealing in international relations with countries as important as China, obviously when you make economic decisions it's sometimes at the expense of human rights," he added. "That's elementary realism."

Sounds like somebody got a talking to. This isn't the first time that Kouchner's idealism has taken a back seat to his boss's more pragmatic priorities, and it raises some questions over whether the left-wing, former head of Doctors Without Borders is only in Sarkozy's government as liberal-internationalist window dressing. Sarkozy, for his part, has offered to make France a facilitator for negotiations between China and the Dalai Lama. It's a start, but as the protests inevitably grow throughout this spring, it's going to get harder to stick to the middle ground.

Update: Speaking on Tuesday, Sarkozy would not rule out the possibility of boycotting the ceremony, saying, "All options are open and I appeal to the Chinese leaders' sense of responsibility." Perhaps he's keeping an eye on the polls.