With each passing day, as China's economic and military power grows, its arrogance and bullish conduct are also taking annoying dimensions. The worst part of this phenomenon is that world governments and international institutions have started showing signs of surrender to Beijing leaders' ever-increasing demands. The events accompanying the Olympic Torch lighting ceremony in Greece in mid-October and later the attempts of Thomas Bach, the President of International Olympics Committee (IOC), at misusing his official position to issue a spotless character certificate to a rape–tainted senior Communist leader of China are the latest examples.
This latest chapter of China brandishing its brute economic and diplomatic power started on October 18 at the Acropolis in Greece when the Olympic torch was being lit from the sacred Olympic flame and the next day when the torch was handed over to China. Keeping in China's disappointing record in human rights and colonial suppression in its colonies like Tibet, East Turkistan (Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Resion), South Mongolia and dismissal of democracy in Hong Kong, representatives of human rights organisations from across the world had gathered in Athens to express their disapproval of organising Winter-Olympics-2022 in China. Right from the day when the IOC assigned the Winter Olympic Games to China, these groups have been appealing for an international boycott of the event.
On both days of the torch ceremony, what dominated the events was the brazen display of diplomatic power by the local Chinese Embassy officials and Chinese Communist Party functionaries in Athens. In Greece, respected internationally as the original home of Olympics and as the 'Mother of Democracy,' it was not the first time that a differing opinion was going to be expressed democratically by human rights groups. But the spectators and the international media were shocked to witness how sheepishly the Greek Police and Greek security agents were following instructions of the Chinese agents to push out and detain each person marked by the Chinese officials at both ceremony venues. A day before these ceremonies, the Greek Police had gone out of its way to arrest two young demonstrators in the Acropolis. Both of them were young girls from America who had unfurled the Tibetan flag and a banner that supported the democratic movement of Hong Kong in the Acropolis.
A few days after the Olympic ceremonies, I had a chance to meet two young Swiss nationals of Tibetan origin at Zurich who had participated in these public protests at the Acropolis and the Olympia and were detained by the Greek Police. (Ms) Tsering Kelsang and (Mr) Tenzin Netsang, both members of the Tibetan Youth Association of Europe (TYAE), were forcibly removed from the venue and detained at a Greek Police station. Tsering was forcibly pushed out of the venue and was detained twice by the Greek Police when she was trying to brief the media about her detention. She was surprised to see that the Greek Police removed each such person from the venue, pointed out by the Chinese officials who openly announced their links with the Chinese Embassy in Athens. “In their enthusiasm to please the Chinese, the police detained everyone who looked different from the Europeans. It was a hilarious scene at the police station where we found that they had detained some of those Chinese agents too who were assigned by the Chinese Embassy to photograph Tibetans, Uyghurs, Mongols and Honk Kong activists,” she said.
“The rule of law was completely shattered in Greece. When one of my colleagues asked a police officer in the police station that for what reason we were being detained? His answer was – “We don’t need any reason. We are the Greek Police”. This was completely arbitrary and had nothing to do with justice,” she added.
Tenzin Netsang is a student of law in Zurich. He too was detained by the Greek Police in Athens." The whole scenario looked very surreal to me. I am a student of law in Switzerland and hold a Swiss passport. I knew I was in Europe. But I was stunned to see the power of Chinese even when they were in a democratic country like Greece where we have basic rights like freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and there is rule of law. It was shocking for me to see that the Greek Police and security agents were taking direct orders from the Chinese officials in their own country. It was like seeing Chinese communist system brought into Europe”, he said.
In Greece, the democratic forces have been expressing concerns over increasing threats to the country’s democratic fibre, and even its sovereignty, with the Government’s ever increasing debt and investment dependence on China. Greece’ handover of its strategic Piraeus Port to China’s shipping firm Cosco in 2016 and the crisis Cosco ridden Athens Government treating heavy investments of China in its energy and real estate as ‘income’ has also raised serious concerns among the public as well as its NATO allies. A virtual surrender of the Greek Police before the Chinese Embassy officials in October this year has emerged as yet another sign of Greece having mortgaged its sovereignty before China.
The second demonstration of Chinese economic and political power that looked far more objectionable and incriminating was on November 22 when none other than Thomas Bach, the President of IOC, took on himself the responsibility of whitewashing Beijing’s suppression of famous Chinese women tennis champion Peng Shuai. The former French Open and Wimbledon doubles champion Peng Shuai had become an international sensation on November 2 after she made public allegations on the Chinese social media that she was repeatedly raped by the former Chinese Vice Premier and a senior communist leader Zhang Gaoli. Soon after the allegations became viral on the Chinese social media and Chinese netizens started posting their comments, she and her social media account suddenly disappeared from the public view.
The Chinese Government and its propaganda machine tried to ward off the ever-growing international outcry over this latest Chinese episode of ‘Me Too’. First, it took the services of the editorial head of CGTN, the international TV mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He forwarded a supposed email from Peng Shuai to Steve Simon, the President of World Tennis Association, in which she was said to be telling him that he and WTA were wrongly informed about her allegations and subsequent disappearance. Then the Chief Editor of CCP mouthpiece and Chinese Government's international newspaper ‘Global Times’ released images and videos of the tennis star to assert that she was fine, happy, smiling, and a free citizen before the international audience.
In Greece, the democratic forces have been expressing concerns over increasing threats to the country’s democratic fibre, and even its sovereignty, with the Government’s ever increasing debt and investment dependence on China. Greece’ handover of its strategic Piraeus Port to China’s shipping firm Cosco in 2016 and the crisis Cosco ridden Athens Government treating heavy investments of China in its energy and real estate as ‘income’ has also raised serious concerns among the public as well as its NATO allies
When the controversy kept raging for over 18 days, Thomas Bach suddenly came out with a stage-managed video from his IOC headquarters chat with Peng Shuai from inside China—referring to the video chat he claimed before the world audience that the Chinese tennis star was safe and happy in China and that all talks of her rape and disappearance were humbug. Interestingly, in her video chat from China, Ms Peng was accompanied by a senior communist leader Li Lingwei, a former Director and Communist Party secretary of Tennis Administration Centre and General Administration of Sports in China. While Bach released the details of his talk with Peng to the international media, he refused to share access to this video recording with CNN. Even before this episode, Bach and IOC had already drawn ridicule from human rights activists from across the world when he tried to run down the calls of “Boycott Beijing Winter-Olympics-2022” by announcing that “the modern Games must be respected on politically neutral ground.” Later, Bach, overwhelmed by his own ‘scoop’ of organising this video talk with the Chinese tennis star from inside China, boasted before the international media that Ms Peng has accepted his invitation to have dinner with him in January ahead the 2022 Winter Olympics along with Li.
But as opposed to what the Chinese authorities and Bach tried to assert, first at Athens and then at IOC headquarters, both these events have only further fortified international concerns at the ever-increasing Chinese bullying the governments and international institutions like IOC and various organs of the United Nations through its financial and political muscle power.