What is it about the Olympics and Totalitarianism that go so well together? Is it the promotion of elite athletes at the expense of the common good? The disregard of democratic values to satiate commercial interests? The advancement of chauvinistic nationalism over internationalism? Whatever it is, the Olympics, be it in Nazi Germany, Communist Russia or now China, has always provided respectability to distinctly unlovely regimes. China is an autocratic tyranny where even to call for democracy can land you in jail or primed for re-education. And the Olympic movement by awarding Beijing the games, has conferred a spurious respectability on the Communist regime.

Chinese Communism has always had a particularly vicious streak. Be it Mao, the Cultural Revolution, suppression and slaughter of the student protestors in 1989, brutal rule in Tibet and even the language the government uses to condemn their enemies, the Chinese Communist party does not believe in half-measures. Tibetans in China are killed, tortured or imprisoned. The indigenous Chinese are denied access to a free media by Orwellian censorship. Chinese people are as friendly, fair-minded and compassionate as any other nationality; their government certainly isn’t. The occupiers of Tibet ‘will not be merciful’ to any protestors – we have been warned.

We could go even further and suggest that the US made a strategic blunder of enormous historical consequences by recognising Red China in the 1970’s. Of course this action was encouraged by the liberal intelligentsia – it was seen as absurd that America would treat with Taiwan/Formosa as the true representatives of the Chinese people. Yet which of the two nations has developed as a democratic state? Not China – China has benefited hugely from international recognition since Nixon and Kissinger’s Great Game diplomacy yet democratic reform has not occurred. To expect the Olympics to encourage the Communist Party to reform itself is hopeless naivety. They may launch a public relations exercise and pretend to engage the Tibetans. However, China will continue to trade with impunity and ignore protests from the international community as long as our governments evade their responsibilities.

The farcical progress of the Olympic Flame has symbolically highlighted how China interacts with the world. Chinese security men, behaving like extras from ‘24’, seem to have no respect for the sensibilities of local policing or cultural diversity. The flame must be protected at all costs. Well, we as citizens can respond by not watching the Olympics, having our elected leaders re-butt all attempts to normalise the abhorrent treatment of the Tibetan people and remember that democracy is a privilege that was hard fought for and must be encouraged wherever tyranny reigns.