helen zia and the olympic torch

As you've no doubt heard by now, the Olympic torch will make its way through San Francisco tomorrow for its only North American stop on the road to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. While the torch is supposed to symbolize the friendly and competitive spirit of the games, thus far it's mainly been a serious international magnet for controversy. Hosting the Olympics puts a prestigious spotlight on Beijing, but there's also absolutely no denying the Chinese government's horrifying record when it comes to human rights—a fact made even more evident as of late as tensions in Tibet come to a full boil.

That's why it may seem strange that respected activist/writer Helen Zia will be one of the individuals running in Wednesday's torch relay. As a longtime advocate of social justice, some may find her participation hypocritical. But she has her reasons. Here's a nicely-written opinion piece by Helen Zia: Why I will carry the Olympic torch.

I think she's able to balance the mixed sentiments evoked in this issue. The sentiment of support for the Chinese people and what the games mean to them (and the world) can exist simultaneously with being critical of the Chinese government. I've wrestled with this issue myself, considering what it means for us as Asian Americans. I think activists can certainly use the Beijing Olympics as a rallying point to draw attention to what's really going on in China. But ultimately, I think boycotting or withdrawing support of the Olympics will only serve to further isolate and define China as "the enemy," which really doesn't do anyone any good in the long run. In any case, you can definitely expect this controversy to intensify as the games draw nearer.

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