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Wei Jingsheng, China's most famous dissident, was expelled from China in 1997 and now lives in exile in New York. He spoke on July 15 with Global Viewpoint editor Nathan Gardels.

NATHAN GARDELS: At its meeting in Moscow last week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) named China as the host of the 2008 Olympics. You opposed this. Why, and what are the implications now for democratization in China?

WEI JINGSHENG: I opposed China being awarded the Olympics because, for the leadership of the Communist Party, everything is political. Having the Olympics for them is not about sports; it is a way to fan ultranationalism and xenophobia at home. This in turn will not bring about better relations between nations -- one of the aims of the Olympics -- but will endanger the security and stability of China's Asian neighbors.

For those who thought granting Beijing the Olympics would soften repression, they have been proven wrong already. Two days after China was granted hosting rights for the Olympics, they began a roundup of democratic activists, starting with Yen Peng in Tsingtao. Getting the Olympics was not a red light to China's leaders to stop repression, but a green light to crack down with impunity.

Finally, hosting the Olympics will aggravate the poor living standards of most people in China. When China hosted the Asian Games, the whole country had to shoulder the expenses for the infrastructure and hosting costs. Everybody was forced to contribute.

This decision by the IOC may not be so good for them and the rest of the world, either. China's political situation now is highly unstable with the 15th Party Congress coming early next year in which the entire leadership will be changed. Experience tells us that each time there is a party congress, heads will roll and purges will abound as intra-party struggle erupts. Who will come out on top, who will fall and be in place as the Olympics approach?

No one today has any idea what will happen to the government by 2008. What if there is a big uprising in China in 2007 and the government cracks down? What is the IOC going to do? Move the Olympics to Tokyo at the last minute?

GARDELS: But won't the Olympics help open up the country? This has been the experience elsewhere. Mexico's hosting of the Olympics in 1968, for example, began the long, slow evolution toward openness and democracy in that country.

WEI: Perhaps where there is some institutional pretension to democracy, as there was in Mexico, then the Olympics may have that impact. But there is another example more relevant to China, which has been ruled by a dictatorship for the last five decades.

Nazi Germany hosted the Olympics in 1936. Hitler used those games to fan xenophobia and nationalism, leading ultimately to world war.

GARDELS: On Monday (July 15), Russia and China signed a friendship pact reminiscent of the Stalin-Mao agreement in the 1950s. What does this mean for democracy in China and the global balance of power?

WEI: The new link between Russia and China is the result of the West's failure to induce democracy in the former Soviet empire, leaving a geopolitical void being filled by Russia turning East as much as West. That blunder, combined with appeasement of China, has given the old Cold War a new life. This pact is the first step in rebuilding the old anti-democratic challenge to the West.

Let me share a revealing anecdote. I went to the Russian embassy in Washington last week to apply for a visa to go to Moscow to join protests against China being awarded the Olympics. The Russians refused to give me a visa, saying boldly: ``We are not like the nations in the West. We don't give visas to dissidents.''

During Boris Yeltsin's time, Russia used to say, ``We are one with the West.'' Now, in Putin's Russia, they come right out and say, ``We are not part of the West.'' But then they embrace Beijing. This is a real fiasco for global democracy.

The ouster of the United States from the United Nations human rights panel plus this friendship pact between Russia and China show that world dictators are gaining strength while the West is losing influence. The West, in turn, must build a new alliance against the rising power of dictatorships.

(c) 2001, Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune Media Services.

For immediate release (Distributed 7/16/01)