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Global Olympic Protests over China’s Support for Dictatorship in Burma (click to view PDF)

President Bush to Meet with Burmese Dissidents 24 Hours before Olympics

U.S. Campaign for Burma Press Release
August 5, 2008

Contact: Jeremy Woodrum (202) 246-7924

(Washington, DC) On the same day that China will host the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, campaigners for human rights in the Southeast Asian country of Burma will protest at 12 Chinese embassies and consulates throughout the world. The demonstrations are timely not only because of the Olympics, but also because August 8th is the 20th anniversary of Burma’s largest national democratic uprising when millions of Burmese citizens bravely marched through the streets calling for freedom and democracy — the protests were brutally crushed by the military and thousands were killed.

Additionally, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush will meet with Burmese dissidents in neighboring Thailand on August 7th, the day before the Olympics.

The Chinese government serves as the most important backer of Than Shwe, the military leader of Burma and one of the world’s most brutal dictators. 

One of the largest demonstrations will take place on August 8th in New York. Human rights activists will protest in front of the Chinese mission to the United Nations at 250 East 35th Street beginning at 2:30 pm. In the United States, there will also be demonstrations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, and Houston. At the same time, human rights activists have organized over 40 events in 20 countries commemorating August 8th and speaking out against China’s policies toward Burma. Attached to this email is a comprehensive list of global actions.

In the lead-up to August 8th, human rights activists inside Burma issued a public call for caring citizens around the world to refuse to watch the Beijing Olympics on television.

“We are rallying in order to tell the world how China is preventing peace in Burma,” said Aung Din, a former Burmese political prisoner and co-founder of the U.S. campaign for Burma. “Without China’s support for the Burmese military junta, there would already be democracy in my country. Clearly, China has already earned a gold medal in supporting tyranny in Burma.”

For years, China has propped up the dictatorship of Than Shwe. China is the key arms supplier for Than Shwe’s regime, supplying over $2 billion in weapons and military equipment. The shipments have included tanks and armored personnel carriers, fighter jets, attack aircraft, coastal patrol ships, small arms and light weapons, logical and transportation equipment, and military advisors.

Than Shwe’s regime has carried out brutal and gruesome attacks against the people of Burma. Among other atrocities, the regime has destroyed over 3,200 ethnic minority villages in eastern Burma (twice as many villages as those destroyed in Darfur), part of a scorched-earth military campaign that has sent millions fleeing as refugees and internally displaced. Than Shwe has also tortured and locked up nearly 2,000 political prisoners, among them the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. At the same time, his regime has recruited more child soldiers than any other country in the world. Imprisonment, attacks on civilians, and conscription of child soldiers continue to this day.

The United Nations has sought to convene peaceful negotiations between Than Shwe’s dictatorship, the pro-democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi, and Burma‘s ethnic minorities. However, the UN has repeatedly failed due to China’s veto of a more rigorous peace-building effort at the UN Security Council.