As anti-government riots spread beyond Tibet and into other provinces, the Chinese government already admits at least 325 people have been injured and 16 people have died. Tibetan exile groups put the death toll at closer to 80 even as they mobilize more troops and paramilitary units into the region. The United States cannot ignore the geopolitical and moral implications of Tibetan dissent and most craft a measured response going into this summer’s Olympic games in Beijing. Heritage senior fellow John Tkacik advises:
The President’s presence in Beijing, and all its attendant hoopla and media coverage, will make quite an impression on the world’s newspaper readers and CNN-watchers. In short, he will not have the luxury of anonymity at the Beijing Olympics.
But the President of the United States need not lend his prestige to China’s global debut as host of the Olympic Games—prestige that China craves. If President Bush hopes to influence China’s behavior, not just with Tibetans, but with Beijing’s many friends around the world that are “America’s adversaries,” he must leverage his attendance and that of his family and even his father. He should also have a confidential chat with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who also plans to be in Beijing, and the leaders of other democracies. Nothing flashy need be arranged.
President Bush needs only to let it be known, quietly, that he is rethinking his participation in the Beijing Olympics, and his press spokesmen need only respond to questions with a shrug of the shoulder and a noncommittal grunt.
China will get the message.