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As the Beijing Olympics come to a close, the final gold medal — for authoritarian image management — can be awarded to China’s Communist Party leadership. Beijing got what it wanted out of this globally televised spectacular. It reaped a huge prestige bonanza that it will surely use to promote its international influence and, we fear, further tighten its grip at home.
It pocketed these gains without offering any concessions in return. When it increased repression a supine International Olympic Committee barely offered a protest. Most world leaders, including President Bush, were nearly as complicit. A year ago, the IOC predicted that these games would be “a force for good” and a spur to human-rights progress. Instead they became a catalyst for intensified human-rights abuse.
Bush has taken some note of China’s appalling human-rights record this summer — privately meeting with Chinese dissidents in Washington just before his visit to the Games and gently nudging his hosts on religious freedom while in Beijing. With these repression-scarred Olympics now drawing to a close, Bush and other world leaders must tell Beijing that its failure to live up to its Olympic commitments will neither be ignored nor forgotten. The medal count and DVD sales cannot be the last word on the Beijing Games. — International Herald Tribune