Clinton urges Bush to boycott Beijing Olympics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged President George W. Bush on Monday to boycott the Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies this summer unless China improves human rights.

Clinton, in a statement, cited violent clashes in Tibet and the lack of pressure by China on Sudan to stop “the genocide in Darfur.”

“At this time, and in light of recent events, I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing, absent major changes by the Chinese government,” the New York senator said.

Bush plans to attend the Summer Olympics ceremonies in Beijing in August and so far has resisted pressure to change his plans in response to a violent crackdown against protesters in Tibet by Chinese authorities.

China has also been accused of refusing to use its influence on the Sudanese government to get it to stop what the United States calls a genocide in the Darfur region.

Clinton joined U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California in calling on Bush to boycott the ceremonies.

“I encourage the Chinese to take advantage of this moment as an opportunity to live up to universal human aspirations of respect for human rights and unity, ideals that the Olympic games have come to represent,” Clinton said.

Speaking before Clinton’s statement was released, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said that, “We have a great deal of concern about human rights in China.”

“We have never been afraid to express those views,” he said.

He said the Bush administration expects American athletes to participate in the Olympics.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Toby Zakaria, editing by Lori Santos)