In U.S., Hope And Outrage Over China Victory

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Friday July 13 4:35 PM ET
In U.S., Hope And Outrage Over China Victory

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By Elaine Monaghan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China's selection as host of the 2008 Olympic Games
(news - web sites) despite widespread criticism of its human rights record
evoked hope, outrage and dismay in the United States on Friday.

The Bush administration, which had remained neutral on the issue, urged
China to show a ``modern'' face, while lawmakers lined up to condemn the
International Olympic Committee (news - web sites) and dissidents asked if
morality had lost its voice.

A spokesman for President Bush (news - web sites) was noncommittal.

``The president believes that the Olympics are a sporting event, not a
political event. But having said that, this now is an opportunity for
China to showcase itself as a modern nation,'' said White House spokesman
Ari Fleischer (news - web sites).

Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill said China's contentious human
rights record should have disqualified it.

Dismayed Chinese dissidents, including a participant in the bloody
Tiananmen uprising of 1989, called for a boycott.

Yet many of the lawmakers tempered their anger with expressions of hope
that China might become a more democratic society in preparing for the
games. U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites)
said U.S. athletes would attend.

``If freedom of expression, freedom of thought and an end to brutal
repression of dissent are indeed in the offing, then rewarding the
Olympics to Beijing will be a milestone,'' said Rep. Christopher Cox (news
- bio - voting record), a California Republican.

Rep. Tom Lantos (news - bio - voting record) of California, a Democrat,
said the IOC's decision ``truly boggles the mind'' and added, ``This
decision will allow the Chinese police state to bask in the reflected
glory of the Olympic games despite having one of the most abominable human
rights records in the world.''


The Bush administration had avoided expressing an opinion on the
selection, saying it had no vote at the IOC, although it keeps China's
record on human and civil rights and religious freedom under constant
scrutiny and frequently slams it.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, a China expert who is often
the mouthpiece for the criticism, also expressed ''sport-over-politics''
sentiments when asked to comment.

``It's very exciting for China and the athletes who will compete there.
I'm sure it will be a great place for our athletes to compete,'' he told a
news briefing.

``We're not going to turn it into a political event. But we do think it's
an opportunity for China ... to showcase itself as a modern country and as
a progressive country and we would hope they would take that

Rice said she hoped the U.S. athletes would ``hopefully compete very well
and bring home lots of gold medals.''

But she said the United States remained concerned about the human rights
in China, a problem that had prompted U.S. lawmakers to debate whether the
Games should be held there.

``We have a human rights agenda with China. I think the Chinese expect it
and we'll continue to pursue that in our bilateral relationship,'' she
said, noting it had come up in Bush's discussions with President Jiang
Zemin (news - web sites) this month.

Secretary of State Colin Powell (news - web sites) will have an
opportunity to pursue this issue when he visits China this month.

But for Chinese dissidents, the decision to award the games to Beijing
left its leaders with no incentive to change.

``We think those sportsmen and sportswomen with human conscience will not
be proud to join a game which would be hosted in a city with shame and
blood and murder,'' said Shengde Lian of the Free China Movement, a
participant in the Tiananmen student uprising crushed by the People's
Liberation Army.

``Where is the moral voice of the international community, and why has it
gone silent?'' asked Timothy Cooper, U.S.-based representative of the
China Democracy Party. He joined a group of dissidents who called a news
conference to condemn the IOC decision.

One outspoken China critic, Republican Sen. Jesse Helms (news - bio -
voting record) of North Carolina, described the IOC's decision as ``an
affront to those who dare to speak up for freedom in China.''

``We should remember Hitler's march into the Rhineland in 1935 and
Brezhnev's invasion of Afghanistan (news - web sites) in 1979, both of
which occurred just before both dictators hosted the Olympic Games,'' he
said, referring to Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.

Cox, Lantos and Helms were among lawmakers who backed nonbinding
resolutions that urged the IOC to reject China's bid but never reached the
floor of the House or Senate for a vote.

(Additional reporting by Deborah Charles, Thomas Ferraro and Letitia
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