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Nix This In China

China has a problem that the world needs to help it solve. Or rather, call it a dilemma. They want two things presently, and in terms of cake, and eating it, it won't wash: on the one hand, they want to present a smooth-running impressive Olympic Games. On the other, they want to violently crush all (even peaceful) protest, including in Tibet.

This isn't a matter of Western values being imposed - the Dalai Lama has spoken out about this latest spate of killing, and he is hardly a Western liberal, though he is friends with some. Instead, this is matter of some concern, for a great nation, with an immense history, and a genius for slow but gradual improvement. China needs to speed up its openness to free expression, and slow down its automatic hand that punishes whatever threatens its perceived best interests. Otherwise, the Tibetan crisis could easily derail its Olympics.

The Nazi Olympics in Berlin, which was a horrific travesty, had some dissent in the shape of great African-American athletes like Jesse Owens, who humiliated the Aryan dream. But while that Games was dark, and compromised, China's could become as, or more, morally fraught. And, if so, teams and nations may be pressured to stay away. My grandfather Ian Hume was a leading figure in the 1976 Montreal Games, and I was raised to love and support them, as the hopefully apolitical meeting of peace and physical beauty they can be - but it is hard to picture a subtle and morally uplifting Chinese Olympics held during massive murderous crackdowns. The rings themselves would snap apart.
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