I don't mean to pick on Scott here -- he's just one person in a conversation -- but boycotting the Olympics would not be a sign of how much we care about the rights of the Tibetan people. It would be a very clear sign of how little we care, if that was all we were going to do. And this is reality, that is the extreme frontier of what we're likely to do.
"China, wow, you can beat, imprison, and murder your citizens for demanding a measure of justice, but if you do we're not going to come to your coming-out ball. That'll show you!"
Canada specifically has some very dirty hands here. Three years ago, Bombardier won the contract to build the high-altitude trains that are now being used to bring in Han Chinese settlers to displace and outnumber the Tibetan majority. The same basic process has already occurred in Xinjiang, where Hans now almost outnumber the Uighurs. If we really wanted to help the Tibetans, we would have not allowed Bombardier to build that train line. There's no mystery here, no surprise that Beijing is going to use these rail lines to further the integration of Tibet in to Beijing's control. If we had cared, at all, about the Tibetans, there's no way we would have allowed a Canadian company to participate in that.
But we did, ergo, we don't give a fuck about the Tibetans unless they make some noise and it's politically expedient to do so. (Most assuredly not accusing Scott of this, just the general atmosphere.)
One thing I think needs to be said over and over and over so that western audiences understand: China's ownership of Tibet is as uncontroversial in China as Canada's ownership of Quebec is here. Indeed, probably less controversial. So Canadians need to understand that us siding with Tibetan protesters looks very much like Charles De Gaulle's little moment in Quebec City a few years back. De Gaulle was at least supporting separatism before the most violent period had started: us supporting Tibet during a period of violence probably looks much worse.
This isn't even to say we shouldn't still support human rights in Tibet: of course we should. But we just got ourselves in to one bind (Kosovo) by blithely supporting human rights without thinking about the long-term consequences. Indeed, we explicitly lied about what the consequences would be when we started bombing Kosovo in 1999. So I kind of feel like we should all be aware: the Chinese are going to remember that when a bunch of domestic terrorists started killing Chinese police (the narrative that is already being told in China, you understand) we were on the side of the terrorists. This is going to be seen as just one more western hypocrisy, one more element of a story of white duplicity that literally goes back centuries now. I'm sure somebody's already written an op-ed in some Chinese paper reminding mainlanders about how the US bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.
I want to be clear: I think what the mainland government is doing is despicable, and I'm certainly not opposed to boycotting the Olympics. Indeed, if I thought anyone was seriously considering trade sanctions at this point I'd be willing to support that. But we need to remember that everything -- even just talking about this stuff now -- has a cost, and we can't just wake up one day and wonder why the Chinese are so pissed at us. I had to deal with enough of that bullshit on Sep. 12, 2001, and I'm sick and fucking tired of having to explain to retards that no, not everything that's ever been done in our name has been kind and benificent.