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October 31st, 2007 Amanda Waldroupe | News Stories
 

Distant Flame

Portlanders protest the 2008 Beijing Olympics and call for the U.S. to boycott the Summer Games.

     
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CARRYING A TORCH: Portland will be one of 100-plus cities the alternative torch relay will visit.
IMAGE: AMANDA WALDROUPE

More than 5,000 miles from the 2008 Summer Olympics’ home city next August, a couple dozen people rallied at Pioneer Courthouse Square last Friday to urge a boycott of the Beijing games.

“The U.S. doesn’t have the spine to stand straight to say no to what China is doing,” says Shyu-Tu Lee, 67. “We have no courage to support justice.”

Lee was one of the demonstrators who spent two hours at Pioneer Square holding up signs, passing out literature and giving speeches detailing China’s human-rights abuses.

In April, a torch relay that’s an alternative to the traditional Olympic hand-off will pass through Portland. Last week’s protest was a prelude to that event, part of a global campaign to end human-rights abuses in China.

The alternative relay focuses on the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of the Falun Gong movement, whose followers practice a series of meditation exercises aimed at cultivating mind and body. Seeing a threat in the movement, the Chinese government banned the practice in 1999 and began persecuting Falun Gong’s estimated 100 million practitioners.

Xiang Fen Ziu, a 44-year-old Falun Gong practitioner, told the Pioneer Square crowd that the Chinese government put her into a labor camp four times. Fearing execution and having her organs harvested, she went on a hunger strike for 2 1/2 months before being released and emigrating to Portland in 2006. (Read the full speech here)

The relay’s message is simple: The coexistence of China’s human-rights abuses and the Olympic games cannot continue.

“The Olympics stands for justice and moral standards,” says rally organizer Amy Nie.

After rallying in Pioneer Square, protesters marched through downtown, handing out pamphlets to onlookers and playing Randall Effner’s song “Feels Like 1936 Again.” Protesters were comparing the 2008 games to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which took place in Nazi Germany.

In 1980, the U.S. boycotted the Moscow Olympics in response to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Some protesters think another U.S. boycott is unlikely in 2008.

“The U.S. is so economically attached to China,” says Rief Aliah, a 26-year-old Portland Community College student. “A boycott wouldn’t happen.”

 
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