Chinese Olympics and My Civil Liberties

Robin Cunningham Health Guide

    China is undoubtedly seeking increased recognition as a major world political, military, economic, and cultural power, as well as validation as a citizen in good standing within the international community of enlightened nations.  The country's prowess in the arenas of politics, military affairs, economics and cultural endeavors is undeniable.  On the other hand, its dismal record on human rights has long stood in the way of its validation as a citizen in good standing within the world's community of progressive nations.


    Allowing China to host the 2008 Olympic Games has effectively papered over its continuing civil rights atrocities and granted the country at least the promise of some measure of the validation within the community of nations that it has long sought.  But it has also presented China with a very dangerous conundrum.

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    If China is to obtain any validation within the community of enlightened nations, the 2008 Olympic Games must, at the very least, be conducted peacefully.  The Olympic Games are the focus of the world for their short duration.  China cannot afford any protests or demonstrations that call attention to its dismal history of civil rights violations and repressive policies.  And there is no shortage of individuals and organizations that would like nothing more than to embarrass the Chinese.


    Any demonstrations, protests or other such disturbances would undermine the Chinese pretentions to ethical conduct.  Even worse would be the need for a violent suppression of such protests by the Chinese government.  The impact of another incident like that of the Teneman Square confrontation could be devastating for the international standing of the Chinese government.  Therefore, such disturbances cannot be allowed to occur, or if they do occur despite the government's best efforts at prevention, these must be confined to areas where no foreigners can see these, especially foreign journalists.


    In an attempt to stave off any such disturbances, the Chinese government is implementing very tight and stringent restrictions on where foreigners can go, and on what they can say or do.  Violators of these rules will be subject to criminal prosecution under Chinese law.  The government has also promulgated a list of "undesirables" that will be denied entry into the country.  Those denied entry will include anyone with a sexually transmitted disease.  In my view, the oddest restriction of all is that no one with a mental illness will be allowed to enter China.


    As I considered this restriction, I couldn't help but wonder if the Chinese are so ignorant as to think that mental illness is contagious.  Also, I puzzled over the question of what would happen to me if I were attending the games and had a serious attack of anxiety or a minor mental meltdown.  Being paranoid from time to time, and with all the scrutiny foreigners are certain to receive in China, I concluded that the possibility of such a relapse might be enhanced.  This sent a chill up my spine.  Since I can't begin to imagine what kind of "treatment" a mentally ill person in China is likely to receive, the thought of attending the games suddenly became much less attractive.


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    Of course, it is possible that "mental illness" is simply a "catch phrase" that the Chinese could employ to discourage, delay or deny the entry of anyone they might choose.  There are certainly precedents for this sort of thing.


    But what has caused me the greatest discomfort has been this question:   How could the Chinese possibly know that I have a mental illness?  Where would they get such information?  Is it possible that I am not as secure in the good old USA as I have always thought?  Might I be included on some list of potential terrorists because I've not only survived but thrived for over fifty years despite the fact that I've been battling schizophrenia all the while?  Is this where the information age, the global economy, and the fear of terrorist attacks taken us?



Published On: August 06, 2008