From CNN – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says President Bush should consider boycotting the opening ceremony of the Olympics Games in Beijing this summer to protest China’s human rights record.
“I think boycotting the opening ceremony, which really gives respect to the Chinese government, is something that should be kept on the table,” Pelosi told “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts in an interview to air Tuesday morning, according to the ABC News Web site. “I think the president might want to rethink this later, depending on what other heads of state do.”
Pelosi said she does not think U.S. athletes should boycott the games themselves.
“I believe a boycott of the Beijing Olympics would unfairly harm our athletes who have worked so hard to prepare for the competition,” she said in a statement last week.
President Bush has said he intends to meet with China’s president during a trip to see the Olympic Games in Beijing, which start on August 8. Bush didn’t elaborate on what issues he might bring up, but his administration has accused China, a major U.S. trade partner, of human rights abuses.
Other world leaders have wrestled with whether to attend the Olympics.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said he may skip the opening ceremonies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she will skip the Olympics. Britain’s Prince Charles said in January he has “no plans to attend the ceremony.”
Pelosi has been a vocal critic of China’s crackdown on anti-government protesters in Tibet.
“If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China’s oppression in China and Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world,” Pelosi told reporters during a visit to the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in Dharamsala, India, on February 21.
Dharamsala is the center of the Tibetan community in India, where many Tibetans fled after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.
“The situation in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world,” Pelosi added.
In a statement from her office on Friday, the California Democrat encouraged people to express their views in San Francisco next month when the Olympic torch passes through on its worldwide trek.
“I support the rights of individuals and groups to make their views known about the actions of the Chinese government.”
China launched its torch relay Monday in a controlled ceremony in front of invited guests at Tiananmen Square. The torch will be taken on a 130-day journey around the world in what is said to be the longest torch relay in Olympic history.
Students for a Free Tibet, a Tibetan exile group, said its protesters will challenge police as the flame moves through 23 cities on five continents before returning to China, where it will be taken throughout the nation on the way to opening ceremonies.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang has said that the games should not be politicized.
“We hope to enhance mutual understanding, friendship and cooperation with other peoples through the Games,” Qin said in a statement on the ministry’s Web site. “We must follow the purpose of the Olympics and not politicize the games.”