Posted by: bklunk | April 13, 2007

George Clooney Good, Mia Farrow Better

Human Rights diplomacy often has a lot to do with publicity. And some people know more about publicity than others.

Darfur Collides With Olympics, and China Yields – New York Times

WASHINGTON, April 12 — For the past two years, China has protected the Sudanese government as the United States and Britain have pushed for United Nations Security Council sanctions against Sudan for the violence in Darfur.

But in the past week, strange things have happened. A senior Chinese official, Zhai Jun, traveled to Sudan to push the Sudanese government to accept a United Nations peacekeeping force. Mr. Zhai even went all the way to Darfur and toured three refugee camps, a rare event for a high-ranking official from China, which has extensive business and oil ties to Sudan and generally avoids telling other countries how to conduct their internal affairs.

So what gives? Credit goes to Hollywood — Mia Farrow and Steven Spielberg in particular. Just when it seemed safe to buy a plane ticket to Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games, nongovernmental organizations and other groups appear to have scored a surprising success in an effort to link the Olympics, which the Chinese government holds very dear, to the killings in Darfur, which, until recently, Beijing had not seemed too concerned about.

Ms. Farrow, a good-will ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund, has played a crucial role, starting a campaign last month to label the Games in Beijing the “Genocide Olympics” and calling on corporate sponsors and even Mr. Spielberg, who is an artistic adviser to China for the Games, to publicly exhort China to do something about Darfur. In a March 28 op-ed article in The Wall Street Journal, she warned Mr. Spielberg that he could “go down in history as the Leni Riefenstahl of the Beijing Games,” a reference to a German filmmaker who made Nazi propaganda films.

Four days later, Mr. Spielberg sent a letter to President Hu Jintao of China, condemning the killings in Darfur and asking the Chinese government to use its influence in the region “to bring an end to the human suffering there,” according to Mr. Spielberg’s spokesman, Marvin Levy.

China soon dispatched Mr. Zhai to Darfur, a turnaround that served as a classic study of how a pressure campaign, aimed to strike Beijing in a vulnerable spot at a vulnerable time, could accomplish what years of diplomacy could not.

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  1. It is always interesting when Hollywood stars dig into world issues. While typically they are worthy causes, I usually find myself wondering whether they are truly committed to the issue or if it is just for publicity sake at the time. This article caught my eye because the issue that Mia Farrow and Steven Spielberg chose to make humanitarian efforts in is not only extremely significant, but also has appeared to have had considerable political implications for state actors, and ultimately the United Nations. China was acting in self-interest when it came to the issue of genocide in Sudan; however, now that another national interest has been pinned to the issue in an uncomfortable light, they are reassessing their attitude. The Olympics will bring significant economic gains to the country and I am sure it is in their best interests to maintain a respectable world outlook in order to maximize those gains. It is quite impressive to see that a Senior Chinese official actually visited Sudan and worked to get them to accept UN peacekeeping forces. After China has continually held the UN back from the region because of their economic ties, it is interesting to see that they have now actually brought more attention to it.

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