12 November 2005

Free Yingying!

Beijing 2008 Mascots

The 2008 Beijing Olympics Committee today announced their five Official Mascots:

“Like the Five Olympic Rings from which they draw their color and inspiration, the Five Friendlies will serve as the Official Mascots of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, carrying a message of friendship and peace — and blessings from China — to children all over the world.

Ying YingDesigned to express the playful qualities of five little children who form an intimate circle of friends, the Five Friendlies also embody the natural characteristics of four of China’s most popular animals — the Fish, the Panda, the Tibetan Antelope, the Swallow — and the Olympic Flame.”

That’s the same Tibetan Antelope now teetering on the edge of extinction — endangered by infrastructure development and poaching. (Its wool is some of the finest in the world.)

The character is intended to project an image of happy diversity:

“His head ornament incorporates several decorative styles from the Qinghai-Tibet and Sinkiang cultures and the ethnic design traditions of Western China.”

Students for a Free Tibet, however, notes another agenda:

“The Chinese authorities’ plan to use the Tibetan antelope as propaganda purporting the unity of the nationalities in China in order to distract from the reality that China has illegally occupied Tibet for more than 50 years can be seen clearly in the statements made at the mascot unveiling ceremonies. According to Liu Qi, head of the Olympics organizing committee, the mascots ‘reflect the cultural diversity of China as a multi-ethnic country... and the enthusiasm and aspirations of our people.’

The Tibetan antelope is not a Chinese symbol and is being used to legitimize China’s occupation of Tibet.”

SFT is encouraging letters to Mr. Liu Qi. For more, see the SFT and Human Rights Watch campaigns on the 2008 Olympics in China.

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