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Beijing Should Get the Games: Tiananmen Dissident's Dissent

THE dilemma over whether Beijing should host the 2000 Olympics is a matter of world concern. Logic does not automatically connect the Games to the politics involved. But pragmatism requires that the international community exploit whatever opportunities arise to promote political progress in China and the rest of the world. Therefore, in considering Beijing's Olympic bid, we must take into account political problems and opportunities before reaching a sound decision.

Judged solely on its past and present human rights record, Beijing is lacking, especially if the Olympics selection is primarily an award bestowed on the host country's government. But if analyzed as a means to influence the future, the benefits of allowing Beijing to hold the 2000 Games far outweigh the drawbacks.

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One benefit would be to accelerate China's opening to the rest of the world, which can only have a positive effect in the country. Conversely, outside forces and trends can have no effect on completely closed society.

Acting as part of the global community, China is more likely to adjust its conduct to international norms. A more open China would foster progress not only within China, but in the world as a whole. We cannot predict that rejecting Beijing will cause China to close its doors. But we can say with certainty that choosing Beijing would force the Chinese government to become at least a bit more open.

That decision would also promote reform. There are signs that if China is not permitted to host the Games, conservatives in the party will further stir nationalist and xenophobic sentiment and attack pro-Western factions. If Beijing is given the Olympics, party reformists will have more maneuverability.

Most important, if China hosts the 2000 Games we will have another means to persuade the leadership to guarantee human rights and expand democracy. Wei Jingsheng's release on parole last week is evidence that global public opinion, given the right external conditions, can have a great effect on human rights in China.

The international community is beginning to reach a common interpretation of the meaning of the Olympics: respect for the human spirit and human aspirations. Should the Chinese government fail to protect this essence of the Olympics in the reform of basic human rights guarantees the world would have the right to respond.

In this sense, the Olympics can be considered a persuasive force placed over the party - a Sword of Damocles - which will force China's leaders to think twice about human rights and political problems.

I understand the feelings of those who oppose Beijing's hosting the Olympics. As one who participated in the 1989 movement, one who has lived under the bloodstained rule, it will be emotionally difficult to watch the Chinese government bask in the glory of a successful bid. But we cannot oppose the bid simply because the Communist Party supports it.

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We must overcome obstacles in the heart, adopt pragmatism, and use any opportunity to push forward democracy. To those here in China who oppose China's Olympic bid I send a tribute and sympathy. But I hold the idea that allowing Beijing to host the Games will be good for the Chinese people. Whether the Olympics will be used as a badge of honor, or a sword suspended over the head of Damocles, depends on how we proceed. The Opinion/Essay Page welcomes manuscripts. Authors of articles we accept will be notified by telephone. Authors of articles not accepted will be notified by postcard. Send manuscripts by mail to Opinions/Essays, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617 -450-2317, or by Internet E-mail to OPED@RACHELCSPS.COM.

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