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Burma Activists Launch Global Campaign to “Turn Off” The Burma Activists Launch Global Campaign to “Turn Off” The Burma Activists Launch Global Campaign to “Turn Off” The Olympics (click to view PDF)

February 26th, 2008
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum (202) 234-8022

(Washington, DC) A leading organization campaigning for human rights in the Southeast Asian country of Burma today launched a campaign calling for 1 million people to sign a petition pledging to not watch the Olympics on television unless China changes its policies on Burma.

“The Beijing Olympics are providing a facade to cover up China‘s atrocious support for Burma’s military regime, just as the Berlin Olympics wrongly brought acclaim to Hitler’s Third Reich,” said Aung Din, executive director of the US Campaign for Burma. “Because of China’s veto power at the UN Security Council, the world is making the same mistakes on Burma that it made on Rwanda and Darfur.”

Burma is ruled by one of the world’s most brutal military regimes, which depends on China for military, financial, and diplomatic support and protection. The regime has destroyed 3,200 ethnic minority villages in a brutal scorched earth military campaign, forcing 1.5 million civilians to flee their homes as refugees and internally displaced persons. The same regime has recruited up to 70,000 child soldiers, far more than any other country in the world. At the same time, the regime has incarcerated up to 2,000 political prisoners, including the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi.

In January 2007, China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, an end to attacks on ethnic minorities, and negotiations aimed at a peaceful transition to democracy. The Council remains paralyzed and unable to act because of China’s continued diplomatic support of Burma’s military regime.

Last week, 10 Nobel Peace laureates including Desmond Tutu, Costa Rican president Oscar Arias, Elie Wiesel, and others called on the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Burma. Yet, China’s veto stands in the way of a strong UN effort.

Much of China’s foreign policy is coming under increased scrutiny as the Olympics approach. Legendary director Steven Spielberg withdrew his support for the Olympics due to China’s support for the government of Sudan and its genocidal policies in Darfur. Nobel Peace Prize recipients Tutu and Jody Williams have also said they will boycott the Olympics unless China changes it stance on Burma and Sudan.

The one million people who sign the petition to boycott the Olympics will do so unless China:
-Stops blocking a UN Security Council arms embargo on Burma and stops selling weapons to Burma’s regime
-Demands the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners, an immediate cessation of attacks against ethnic minorities, and the discharging of all conscripted child soldiers
-Declares that China will not recognize the SPDC’s constitution as long as Aung San Suu Kyi, democracy groups, and ethnic party representatives are excluded from participation
-Plays a constructive role in facilitating peaceful negotiations in Burma between the military regime, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Burma’s ethnic nationalities

If China refuses to respond to these calls for action, one million people will:
-Turn off their televisions and refuse to watch the Olympics
-Refuse to purchase Olympic memorabilia
-Refuse to buy from companies who sponsor the Olympics
-Instead of watching the Olympics, plan events to help end human rights abuses in Burma such as protests, prayer services, film screenings
-Plan major protests at Chinese embassies throughout the world

“We have tried to work with China and convince them to play a constructive role in Burma,” added Aung Din. “But China has refused, and instead continues its arms sales and diplomatic unilateralism.”

The boycott effort is supported by human rights activists inside Burma. Yesterday, the 88 Generation Students, one of Burma’s most prominent human rights groups, called on people throughout the world to boycott the games unless China ended its support for Burma’s regime.

“In response to China’s bankrolling of the military junta that rules the country with guns and threats, we call for each and every citizen around the world not to watch the Olympic ceremonies on television,” they said.