Spielberg decision to quit 'regretful'

By Zhang Haizhou (China Daily/Agencies)
Updated: 2008-02-15 06:49

China Thursday expressed regret over the decision by Hollywood movie director Steven Spielberg to quit as an artistic advisor to the Beijing Olympics.

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The American announced his decision on Wednesday, citing concerns over the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, which he linked to China.

"We express regret (for his decision)," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said Thursday at a regular briefing.

In an interview with BBC World News America, US President George W. Bush said Spielberg's decision to quit his Beijing Olympics role as artistic adviser for the opening ceremony was a personal decision.

Bush said he would go to China for the Olympics but would not politicize the sporting event.

"It's up to him. I am going to the Olympics, I view the Olympics as a sporting event," Bush said.

"I am not going to go and use the Olympics as an opportunity to express my opinions to the Chinese people in a public way."

Responding to recent remarks by some Westerners linking China to Darfur, Liu said China has "noticed these or those discussions and moves on China's stance on Darfur".

"It is understandable if some people do not understand the Chinese government's policy on Darfur," he said. "But we can't accept that some people want to use this as an opportunity to link Darfur to China's Africa and Sudan policies, and even to the Beijng Olympic Games."

Liu said China has been working with the United Nations to resolve the Darfur crisis.

"China is also concerned about the humanitarian crisis there, but we have been playing a positive and constructive role in promoting peace in Darfur."

China has so far offered $11.1 million in humanitarian aid to Sudan, Liu said. Chinese firms have also offered aid.

China National Electric Equipment Corporation has completed 18 small-scale power plants in Darfur and two more are under construction.

In addition, Beijing will send 315 engineering troops to the region, 140 of which have already arrived.

Last year, when Sudan and the UN differed over the deployment of hybrid peacekeeping forces, China sent a special envoy several times to Khartoum to persuade the government to accept the UN resolution.

"On the issue of Darfur, empty rhetoric will not help," Liu said. "What is more important is to do more things to help with the peace process there and alleviate the humanitarian crisis."

In an article summarizing the response of the Chinese public to the decision by Spielberg and some other Westerners to boycott the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese-language current affairs newspaper Global Times Thursday said the moves have "disgusted" ordinary Chinese.

"Western exploitation of the Olympics to pressure China immediately provoked much disgust among ordinary Chinese people," the paper said.

"The vast majority of Chinese people have expressed bafflement and outrage at the Western pressure. In ordinary Chinese' eyes, it is totally ridiculous to place the Darfur issue, so many thousands of kilometers away, on China's shoulders," it said.

The newspaper quoted Professor Jin Canrong from the Renmin University of China as saying that linking Darfur to the Olympics shows some Western countries were exploiting their "media hegemony" to whip up prejudice.

"Whoever uses this humanitarian issue to criticize China and put pressure on China gains something of a halo," Jin was quoted as saying.

"The West has seized on China's tremendous emphasis on the Olympic Games to criticize China."

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