Olympics: China Expresses Regret Over Spielberg Pullout

BEIJING: China expressed regret Thursday over US film-maker Steven Spielberg’s decision to sever his ties with the Olympic Games because of the violence in Darfur.

“We feel regret about his remarks,” foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said, two days after Spielberg quit his post as artistic advisor to the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies.

In a statement Tuesday, Spielberg said that China should do more to urge the Sudanese government to resolve the humanitarian crisis in its western region of Darfur.

“Sudan’s government bears the bulk of the responsibility for these ongoing crimes but the international community, and particularly China, should be doing more to end the continuing human suffering,” Spielberg said.

But China defended its record on Sudan, saying it had worked hard to bring peace there.

“The Chinese government has made unremitting efforts to resolve the Darfur issue, an obvious fact to the international community, which holds unprejudiced opinions on this issue,” said Zhu Jing, a spokeswoman from the Olympic organising committee (BOCOG).

She said that Darfur should not be linked to the August 8-24 Games.

“Linking the Darfur issue to the Olympic Games will not help to resolve this issue and is not in line with the Olympic spirit that separates sports from politics,” she said.

Spielberg’s withdrawal coincided with another blow to China from Nobel Prize winners and Olympic athletes critical of Beijing’s record on Darfur who addressed a letter Tuesday to China’s president Hu Jintao.

Signatories to the letter include South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other Nobel Peace laureates as well as Olympic athletes, writers, actors and political figures from around the world.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge was among the signatories on a version of the letter published Thursday, according to the London Independent newspaper.

However, the IOC could not be immediately contacted to confirm Rogge’s signature.

China is one of the Sudanese government’s closest allies and buys the majority of the nation’s oil exports. China in return is a major supplier of weapons to Sudan. – AFP/ac

Channel News Asia

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