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China tells critics to back off ahead of Olympics
March 12, 2008 / 4:27 AM / 10 years ago

China tells critics to back off ahead of Olympics

BEIJING (Reuters) - China warned foreign groups on Wednesday not to use the Summer Olympics to pressure Beijing, presenting the nation as a “responsible” but poor power eager to end rows over trade, pollution and human rights.

<p>Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi answers a question during a news conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing March 12, 2008. REUTERS/Jason Lee</p>

China has been buffeted ahead of the Games by worries over dirty air and international protests over human rights, Tibet, Sudan’s Darfur and other controversies that often irk Chinese diplomats.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told critics to back off, accusing them of violating the Olympic Games charter keeping politics away from sports.

“I don’t believe that the international community wants to politicize the Beijing Olympics. That’s a handful of individuals and forces extremely unfriendly to China and bearing massive prejudices,” Yang told reporters.

China welcomed “well-intentioned” criticism of the Games, he said. “But those who want to tarnish China -- and hear me, I said China -- won’t succeed.”

The scholarly-looking diplomat made the comments in a news conference coinciding with the annual national parliament, and carefully answered questions on the United States, Japan and European Union, arguing that China wanted cooperation, not contention.

But his comments also came after a slew of news that underscored the headaches China faces in holding the huge, live-to-air sporting spectacle that starts on August 8.

In February, Oscar-winning film director Steven Spielberg quit as an artistic adviser to the Games, claiming that China had failed to use enough sway in Sudan to seek an end to bloodshed in Darfur.

This week has seen protest marches against the Games by Tibetan refugees. Ethiopia’s marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie announced he will not race in Beijing because of health fears from pollution.

And Chinese officials announced a domestic flight from the restive western region of Xinjiang was grounded over fears of a terrorist attack, stirring concern about security around the Games.

<p>Paramilitary policemen stand in front of a bus with Olympic mascots in the window as they watch delegates from the National People's Congress (NPC) walk towards the Great Hall of the People in Beijing's Tiananmen Square March 11, 2008. REUTERS/David Gray</p>

But Yang said the Chinese capital would be safe and clean for visitors and the event would seal, not sour, friendly ties.

“The international community and governments, leaders and the publics of countries across the world warmly support a successful Olympics, showing their deep friendly feeling for the Chinese people,” Yang said.

”China of course is one of the safest places in the world,“” he added.

Beijing’s Games have been presented as a chance for China to brandish its growing prosperity and pride, with the government pouring billions into new subway lines and shining stadiums.

<p>Paramilitary policemen stand in front of a bus with Olympic mascots in the window as they watch delegates from the National People's Congress (NPC) walk towards the Great Hall of the People in Beijing's Tiananmen Square March 11, 2008. REUTERS/David Gray</p>

But in response to questions about Africa and climate change policy, Yang also said China was still a poor country, too focused on its own development to bear too much of an international burden, especially in cutting greenhouse gas pollution.

“China is a responsible member of the international community,” Yang said. “At the same time, as a developing country, frankly, China cannot assume international responsibilities beyond its own capacity to bear.”

China is set to surpass the United States as the world’s top emitter of carbon dioxide, but says it will not accept fixed caps on emissions and the burden in fighting climate change should fall on rich countries, who create much more pollution per head.

“It’s like there is one person who eats three slices of bread for breakfast, and there are three of them who eat only one slice. Who should be on a diet?,” Yang said.

He also said “transfer emissions” -- the environmental costs of products produced in one country and then exported to -- should be considered in emissions calculations.

Asked about U.S. criticisms of China’s strict leash on citizens’ political activities, Yang accompanied a call for more friendly dialogue with a prickly warning.

“We resolutely oppose clinging to a Cold War mentality and drawing an ideological line to engage in confrontation and double standards,” he said.

Editing by Nick Macfie and Sanjeev Miglani

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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