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PM Beijing-bound, despite criticism -

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PM Beijing-bound, despite criticism

The World Today - Thursday, 19 June , 2008 12:13:00

Reporter: Simon Santow

ELEANOR HALL: It may not make any difference to the medal count but Australia's athletes will have
some high profile barrackers in their corner at the Olympic Games in August.

The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, has ended months of speculation by confirming that he will attend
the opening ceremony in Beijing and the first couple of days of competition, and the
Governor-General Michael Jeffery will also be there.

But in accepting the Chinese Government's invitation both men have disappointed human rights
advocates who say they should stay away in protest at abuses in Tibet and other parts of China.

Simon Santow has our report.

SIMON SANTOW: For Kevin Rudd going to Beijing was simply a matter of finding the time in a very
tight prime ministerial schedule.

KEVIN RUDD: We've made it work and I'll be going to the opening ceremony and I'll be there for a
few days after that and come back, I think all together about three days.

SIMON SANTOW: And he insists his delay in deciding to go wasn't intended as some sort of diplomatic
snub aimed at upsetting China, and he didn't think that's the way it had gone down in Beijing.

KEVIN RUDD: I'm unaware of any of that so I'm just pretty relaxed about going. I think it's, the
Chinese Government have extended the invitation, the Australian Olympics Committee have been
supportive of the decision to go, I think it's the right thing to do, and more importantly just to
cheer for the Australian team and to respond positively to the invitation which has been extended
to me personally by the Chinese President.

SIMON SANTOW: The Prime Minister announced he'd be going to the Games while addressing Institute of
Sport athletes in Canberra this morning.

Kevin Rudd regaled the Olympians with his own sporting and cultural exploits.

KEVIN RUDD: It's great to be with you today. Did you like the Tai Chi demonstration before? I
thought I was pretty good.

When I was studying Chinese at university we all had to do a bit of Tai Chi. My teacher told me
this story that, this is 25 years ago, and he was learning Tai Chi himself in his backyard in
Yarralumla. He was doing those exercises, you know you do that, and then about 45 minutes later an
ambulance pulled up with the people from the psychiatric ward at the hospital (laughter) because
the neighbours had dobbed him in because they thought he'd lost it completely. Things have changed
and it's good to see that they have.

The closest I got to competitive sport in Beijing was playing for Australia in the Australian team
in Beijing in cricket. There were only 12 Australians in China at the time (laughter) and I was
selected as 12th man. As our captain said, I never troubled the score keepers much.

SIMON SANTOW: While the Prime Minister may have been self-deprecating in his manner, some of his
political opponents don't see anything funny about his decision to attend the Games.

BOB BROWN: The pollution of Beijing strong-arm politics has reached the Prime Minister's office
here in Canberra.

SIMON SANTOW: Greens leader Bob Brown says going to Beijing gives the Government there credibility
when it should be criticised for human rights abuses, particularly in Tibet.

BOB BROWN: Mr Rudd should be not going to the opening ceremony unless there was a real breakthrough
for the Tibetans in negotiations between Hu Jintao, the top Communist leader in Beijing, and the
Dalai Lama and his representatives.

It's not much of an ask, but even that's been dropped by Kevin Rudd on the altar of appearing to
grace the dais with Hu Jintao in Beijing at the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

It's not just a pollution here that's affecting our ability to have the full team at the opening
ceremony, and quite a few of the athletes will be looking after their health by waiting until the
track events, but there is a political pollution that is very, very damaging here and that is the
sheer trade power and the dollar power and the money power and the political power of the Beijing

SIMON SANTOW: Senator Brown's argument has been bolstered by Amnesty International's claim
overnight that as many as 1000 detainees from the riots in Tibet in March remain unaccounted for.

Spokeswoman Roseann Rife:

ROSEANN RIFE: For Amnesty International simply the story is that hundreds, over 1000 people are
unaccounted for in the Tibetan autonomous region and the neighbouring Tibetan populated areas.

The Chinese Government, through official media reports, has told us about numbers who have
surrendered, who have been detained and then who have been charged and sentenced, and there's a
huge discrepancy and those hundreds of people are unaccounted for.

SIMON SANTOW: Amnesty International says that under Chinese law it's possible to be held in
detention for four years without being charged.

ELEANOR HALL: Simon Santow reporting.