Former Olympian, Activist Debate Beijing Boycott International Olympic Committee member Anita DeFrantz — a U.S. rower who missed the 1980 Moscow games because of a boycott — says the Olympic games have forced China to be more open. David Kilgour, a Canadian human rights lawyer and former member of parliament, supports a boycott of the opening ceremonies.
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Former Olympian, Activist Debate Beijing Boycott

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Former Olympian, Activist Debate Beijing Boycott

Former Olympian, Activist Debate Beijing Boycott

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In San Francisco, where the Olympic torch will pass en route to Beijing this summer, there is now a daily protest.

(Soundbite of protesters)

Unidentified Woman: Reject China's bloody torch.

Unidentified Group: Reject China's bloody torch.

Unidentified Woman: No torch through San Francisco.

Unidentified Group: No torch through San Francisco.

SIEGEL: Tibetans and their supporters are urging an Olympic boycott. So are some campaigners against atrocities in Darfur, and also some proponents of human rights in China.

We're going to hear now from an advocate of at least a partial boycott of the Olympic Games and also an opponent of such a boycott. David Kilgour is a Canadian human rights lawyer, former secretary of state for Asia Pacific in Canada, a member of parliament there in the past.

He joins us from Buenos Aires in Argentina. Welcome to the program.

Mr. DAVID KILGOUR (Canadian Human Rights Lawyer): Good to be here, Robert.

SIEGEL: And Anita DeFrantz is an American member of the International Olympic Committee, she is a former Olympic rower, a bronze medalist in 1976 in Montreal who did not get to compete in 1980 because of the U.S. boycott of the games in Moscow.

Welcome to the program, Anita DeFrantz.

Ms. ANITA DeFRANTZ (Member, International Olympic Committee): Thank you.

SIEGEL: She's joining us, by the way, in Culver City, California. First, David Kilgour, what sort of boycott, if any, do you propose for the games this summer and why?

Mr. KILGOUR: Well, initially I thought, Robert, that a full boycott would be called for given what was happening in Tibet, in Darfur and a whole other range of human rights abuses across China. But I think I've now come to the conclusion that the partial boycott that's being increasingly discussed, where governments of principle simply don't take part in the opening ceremony would be the best, because as we're seeing on a daily basis - and you just indicated -there are more and more reasons why people are saying that China has got to start respecting its human rights commitments for the games. The only group that isn't insisting that they do anything about it is the IOC, which is represented by your other guest.

SIEGEL: You're saying that you would prefer a boycott by government officials of the opening ceremony, athletes would do whatever they would like, is what you're saying.

Mr. KILGOUR: Presumably, yes, and some of the athletes may not choose to go on the opening parade and a lot of them, I hope, would choose not to go on the parade.

SIEGEL: Anita DeFrantz, what do you think about that idea?

Ms. DeFRANTZ: I care deeply about people's rights. Certainly, as an African-American, I know about discrimination and so forth, and so let me be clear about that. I also care about what the Olympic movement means and does for individuals. Fifteen thousand or so athletes got up this morning and they're going there to take part in what is the quadrennial peace gathering of athletes from around the world, and preparing to commit themselves to mutual respect and fair play.

SIEGEL: But does that require respect from presidents of France and other countries, say President Sarkozy has mentioned the possibility of boycotting that ceremony.

Ms. DeFRANTZ: Yes, I think it's not really a boycott. They choose to attend or not. I don't know what being there does or doesn't do.

SIEGEL: Well, David Kilgour, what would staying away from the opening ceremonies - what would it do?

Mr. KILGOUR: well, first let me speak to something Ms. DeFrantz said. She said she was an African-American, and I'd hope she's aware of the fact that in Darfur, Sudan, between 400 and 450,000 African Darfuries have been murdered, raped...

Ms. DeFRANTZ: Of course, I'm aware of that...

Mr. KILGOUR: a government that's being bankrolled, armed and assisted by the government of China.

SIEGEL: But to get back question to...

Ms. DeFRANTZ: Well, thank you for that information. Thank you for that information. I appreciate it.

SIEGEL: But the question is, do you believe that something that would happen or not happen in Beijing would have an impact on Darfur or Tibet, for that matter.

Mr. KILGOUR: Well, yes I have a good example of that too, Robert. I happen to have done an investigation with another lawyer in Canada of what's happened to the Falun Gong community. And we concluded thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been killed and their organs have been sold mostly to foreigners.

The Chinese Medical Association, about three months ago, agreed with the World Medical Association that they wouldn't allow foreigners to come for organs anymore. And, one of the reasons they gave was that they were concerned about a boycott of the Olympic Games. So then, in fact, these things are heavily influenced. It's the only time the government of China is listening and all of us, I hope, including, I wish for once, the IOC would get the point on this.

SIEGEL: Anita DeFrantz.

Ms. DeFRANTZ: Mm-hmm.

SIEGEL: What do you make of that? That it's a moment, David Kilgour would argue, for some leverage over the host nation. Why not use that leverage?

Ms. DeFRANTZ: My question is does it work? And my experience has been that it's mixed. If it works for people, fine. But please, allow the athletes to make their decision. Please do not make them take sides on this.

SIEGEL: But, if there's any value to anybody not taking part in the games, hundreds of millions of people around the world won't be looking at their television sets to say, look, I think I see Angela Merkel there...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: the stands, at the opening ceremony. They're tuning in to watch the athletes, so wouldn't any sort of boycott or staying away inevitably have to involve the athletes?

Mr. KILGOUR: Well, I don't…

Ms. DeFRANTZ: Well, I hope not because it is for the athletes that this event is developed, it's not for the government…

Mr. KILGOUR: Well, I beg to differ on that, Ms. Frantz…

Ms. DeFRANTZ: Well…

Mr. KILGOUR: The people that are benefiting from it, as you should know, are the sponsors. The IOC benefits financially, enormously. You should never have given the games to China, but then, of course, you guys and gals lost by three votes to give the 2000 games to China. That was within, what, three years after Tiananmen Square? You people at the IOC don't seem to have a single scruple when it comes to dealing with a…

Ms. DeFRANTZ: Ouch.

Mr. KILGOUR: …totalitarian governments.

Ms. DeFRANTZ: My goodness. That's harsh words. You don't know me that well.

Mr. KILGOUR: Well, you deserve harsh words.

Ms. DeFRANTZ: I don't think so. We do a lot of things that never get to a light of day that are significant. Why don't we wait until the games are over, and we can see if that's really…

Mr. KILGOUR: No. Yeah, that's - of course, you want a quiet, peaceful, profitable games.

Ms. DeFRANTZ: Oh, profitable. Oh, come on. What I want is for the games to endure and flourish. Well, I can't…

SIEGEL: Let me get in here for a second. David Kilgour, given your wrath at the International Olympic Committee, it sounds very modest of you to suggest that world leaders shouldn't attend the opening ceremonies. It sounds as though you should be in favor of an out-and-out boycott of the games in China.

Mr. KILGOUR: Well, I was initially in favor of a full boycott, but what I have discovered is that virtually, every day that goes by, the more the true nature of the government in China is being exposed to people around the world, so I think it's probably better for those of us who believe in human dignity, for the games not to be boycotted.

Ms. DeFRANTZ: If I may…

SIEGEL: Yes, please.

Ms. DeFRANTZ: I care, as I've said earlier, deeply about this. And I paid attention to the leaders of the dissidents, and they have been consistent in saying it's important for the games to go on.

I do believe that because of the Olympic movement, things have been brought to light; certainly, the media being allowed, and there will be more of that.

IEGEL: I should verify that. The constraints on international media are, by all accounts, much, much lighter, and the institution of the government minder seems to be passing, at least - we know for this season in China, if not, longer than that.

Ms. DeFRANTZ: Mm-hmm. And that will continue, so that means people will be more able to communicate with the outside world in ways, maybe not immediately and loudly, but quietly and importantly.

Mr. KILGOUR: If you think things are going to be better after the games and before, then you are the most naive person I have ever spoken to.

Ms. DeFRANTZ: Oh, my goodness. Well, we'll have to get together again after the games.

Mr. KILGOUR: I doubt that we will, because in fact, one of the problems with the IOC, Ms. DeFrantz, is that you will not talk to anybody, you will not meet with anybody. Trying to contact the IOC is like contacting the Politburo in Beijing.

Ms. DeFRANTZ: Well, that's confusing, isn't it?

SIEGEL: Well, we're glad that you have both been available for each other in this segment. David Kilgour…

Ms. DeFRANTZ: Now we can continue.

Mr. KILGOUR: I don't think so(ph).

SIEGEL: And Anita DeFrantz.

Mr. KILGOUR: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: Thank you both very much for talking with us.

Ms. DeFRANTZ: My pleasure. Thank you.

SIEGEL: Anita DeFrantz is an American member of the International Olympic Committee. And David Kilgour is a Canadian human rights lawyer.

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