Call for EU to boycott China Olympics over Burma
The centre-right and liberal groups in the European Parliament have joined forces to call for the EU's boycott of the 2008 Olympic games in China as a way of prompting Beijing to exert its influence over Burma.
With the backing of the largest EPP-ED group and the third largest liberal ALDE group, the parliament's vice-president Edward McMillan-Scott is set to officially request the Portuguese presidency and UK prime minister Gordon Brown for action.
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"The consensus around the European Parliament is that China is the key. China is the puppet master of Burma," Mr McMillan-Scott said, according to Reuters news agency.
"The Olympics is the only real lever we have to make China act. The civilized world must seriously consider shunning China by using the Beijing Olympics to send the clear message that such abuses of human rights are not acceptable," he added.
The suggestion comes amid reports from Burma about the first victims of the country's military crackdown on peaceful protesters calling for democracy - led by Buddhist monks.
Nine people died on Thursday (27 September) during the tenth day of the demonstrations, including one Japanese video journalist, after soldiers and police fired into the crowds in Rangoon and gave them 10 minutes to clear the streets or face the consequences.
According to diplomatic sources, the real number of casualties might be much higher, the BBC reported.
The event has sparked strong international condemnation as well a pressure on China to take a critical stance.
"Every civilised nation has a responsibility to stand up for people suffering under a brutal military regime like the one that has ruled Burma for too long," said US president George W. Bush, according to press reports.
Beijing is one of Burma's few allies and has so far rejected the prospect of UN sanctions pressed for by US and EU or to condemn the Burmese junta's action. But it did call for public restraint in Burma for the first time on Thursday (27 September).
Strong sanctions needed
The European Parliament on Thursday also voted overwhelmingly (by 563 votes to 3 with 4 abstentions) in favour of a resolution which calls on the international community to prepare "targeted economic sanctions" against the regime if it fails to respond to pressure from abroad.
The document "applauds the courageous action of the Burmese monks and tens of thousands of other peaceful demonstrators in confronting the anti-democratic and repressive regime in Burma and utterly condemns the brutal response by the Burmese authorities".
Deputies also pressed member states to join forces with the US and countries in southern and eastern Asia in putting pressure on the Burmese military junta.
Finally, they urged the European Commission to provide EU funding "to actively support the pro-democracy movement and NGOs that works for the restitution of good governance in Burma".