China's Olympics Countdown Spurs Protests

The start of the one-year countdown to the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics on Wednesday launched protests across the world and in the United States by China critics hoping to end U.S. participation in the games.

Opponents of the Communist-led government are protesting the country's human rights record, and especially its financial support for the Sudanese government, which is responsible for the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Africans in Darfur.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., introduced a resolution before Congress left town last weekend. It is a nonbinding measure that urges President Bush to boycott the Beijing games.

The resolution states that the president "should take action to resume participation" in the games only if the Chinese government condemns the actions in Darfur, ceases all military arms sales to Sudan and suspends economic cooperation and investment with the African nation.

In addition, Sudan must stop attacking civilians, comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions and engage in "good-faith negotiations with Darfur rebel groups to achieve a sustainable negotiated peace agreement."

According to the U.S.-based Save Darfur Coalition, the Sudanese government is responsible for violent militia-led efforts, backed by aerial attacks, to displace and wipe out communities of African tribal farmers.

"Villages have been razed, women and girls are systematically raped and branded, men and boys murdered, and food and water supplies targeted and destroyed," the group's Web site states.

The U.N. recently approved a peacekeeping mission to Darfur, which Sudanese President President Omar al-Bashir has said he would accept, though he has stated as such before and broke his pledges.

According to the resolution, China buys as much as 70 percent of Sudan's oil and has $3 million invested in the Sudanese energy sector. China also recently cancelled $100 million in Sudanese debt and supplied at least $24 million in arms and $57 million in aircraft equipment and parts.

Independent filmmakers on Wednesday began wide release of the documentary "The Devil Came on Horseback," which chronicles a former U.S. Marine captain's observations as he traveled into Darfur and witnessed assaults against children, hostage-taking and and close gun-fire.

"China is the Sudan’s biggest economic ally and trading partner including arms and has repeatedly impeded efforts by the United Nations to take action on Darfur. The film’s creative team calls on supporters and sponsors of the 2008 Beijing Olympics to put pressure on the Chinese government to leverage their relationship with Sudan to influence meaningful progress in stopping the genocide in Darfur," said the filmmakers' spokesperson.

Reporters Without Borders has also staged protests around the world. It is calling for the release of about 100 journalists and free speech activists jailed in the country.