World News

EU should boycott Beijing Olympics over Myanmar

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union countries should boycott the 2008 Beijing Olympics unless China intervenes in Myanmar, an EU lawmaker said on Thursday.

The vice president of the European Parliament Edward McMillan-Scott will write to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the EU’s Portuguese presidency asking them to discuss whether athletes should oppose the Beijing games.

The British Conservative MEP is backed by the assembly’s largest political group -- the centre-right European People’s Party, which includes the government parties of France and Germany -- and the Liberal grouping within the EU legislature.

“The consensus around the European Parliament is that China is the key. China is the puppet master of Burma,” McMillan-Scott told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“The Olympics is the only real lever we have to make China act. The civilized world must seriously consider shunning China by using the Beijing Olympics to send the clear message that such abuses of human rights are not acceptable.”

Graham Watson, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, said: “The EU must push for common action as a bloc or via the U.N. General Assembly on China and its Asian trade partners over Burma.”

“For too long we have turned a blind eye and tolerated the illegitimate and repressive military regime there.”

China publicly called for restraint in Myanmar, formerly Burma, for the first time on Thursday, despite opposing EU and U.S. calls for United Nations sanctions against the country’s military rulers.

The comments followed talks between Chinese and U.S. officials who urged Beijing to use its influence as a neighbor and trade partner of Myanmar’s isolated regime.

China is seen as wielding considerable sway over the junta, which is cracking down on the biggest anti-government protests in nearly 20 years. The protests are led by Buddhist monks.

“This religious mass movement is finding echoes all over Asia including China, Korea and Tibet. They are filling a political vacuum. You cannot kill faith, if you try it will kill you,” said McMillan-Scott, who had just returned from a tour of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Thailand.

“This is a repeat of what happened in 1989 in central and eastern Europe. Catholic and Protestant pastors got out of the pulpit and into the street to lead the ‘velvet revolution’.”

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on Thursday condemning the crackdown and called for tougher sanctions if the ruling junta fails to heed calls for democracy.