Republican John McCain on Thursday called on President Bush to reconsider his decision to attend opening ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics, joining Democratic candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama in the opposition they expressed this week.
“If Chinese policies and practices do not change, I would not attend the opening ceremonies,” said the Arizona senator, the presumed GOP nominee for president.
“It does no service to the Chinese government, and certainly no service to the people of China, for the United States and other democracies to pretend that the suppression of rights in China does not concern us. It does, will and must concern us.”
Clinton was the first to call on Bush to skip the ceremonies, saying Monday that “the violent clashes in Tibet and the failure of the Chinese government to use its full leverage with Sudan to stop the genocide in Darfur are opportunities for presidential leadership.”
Saying the administration had downplayed human rights in its policy toward China, Clinton urged Bush not to attend the opening ceremonies, “absent major changes by the Chinese government.”
The Illinois senator, Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination, expressed similar views, adding his concerns about Chinese influence with Sudan in the midst of the slaughter in Darfur.
“If the Chinese do not take steps to help stop the genocide in Darfur and to respect the dignity, security and human rights of the Tibetan people, then the president should boycott the opening ceremonies,” Obama said in a statement.
But Obama, saying that a boycott of the opening ceremonies should be “firmly on the table,” argued that the decision “should be made closer to the Games.”
In a statement issued by his campaign Thursday, McCain said the Chinese government “needs to understand that in our modern world, how a nation treats its citizens is a legitimate subject of international concern.”
“I deplore the violent crackdown by Chinese authorities and the continuing oppression in Tibet of those merely wishing to practice their faith and preserve their culture and heritage.”
Urging China to engage in “a genuine dialogue” with the Dalai Lama, McCain said: “I have listened carefully to the Dalai Lama, and am convinced he is a man of peace who reflects the hopes and aspirations of Tibetans.
“I urge the government of the People’s Republic of China to address the root causes of unrest in Tibet by opening a genuine dialogue with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, aimed at granting greater autonomy.
“I urge the Chinese authorities to ensure peaceful protest is not met with violence, to release monks and others detained for peacefully expressing their views and to allow full outside access to Tibet.”
White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, asked Wednesday about the president’s planned attendance at the Aug. 8 opening ceremonies, said she could not confirm the president’s travel plans. “I would just leave it as how the president stated it,” she said. “We haven’t announced the president’s schedule.”
Times staff writer James Gerstenzang contributed to this report.