China "regrets" Spielberg's Darfur decision

Thu Feb 14, 2008 3:56pm EST
 
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By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) - China voiced its disappointment on Thursday over movie director Steven Spielberg's decision to quit his Beijing Olympics role because of China's policies in Sudan and said the Games would be a success regardless.

"We express regret," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a news conference. "All preparation work for the Beijing Olympics is proceeding smoothly. The Chinese people are willing to work with artists from around the world with wisdom and talent and the Olympic Games will be a success."

The Hollywood director said he pulled out of his role as an artistic adviser because China was doing too little to help halt the bloodshed in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, where Khartoum-linked militia have battled rebel groups.

Nine Nobel Peace laureates also wrote to Chinese President Hu Jintao urging him to change policy towards Sudan, where China has big oil investments. Beijing has often said it is working for peace in Darfur.

China's state media accused Western countries of abusing the Olympics to pressure Beijing and said the boycotts "disgusted" Chinese people.

"Western exploitation of the Olympics to pressure China immediately provoked much disgust among ordinary Chinese people," said the Global Times, a current affairs tabloid run by the Communist Party's People's Daily.

"The vast majority of Chinese people have expressed bafflement and outrage at the Western pressure. In their view, it's absolutely absurd to place the Darfur issue, so many thousands of miles away, on the head of China."

"NOT IN OLYMPIC SPIRIT"   Continued...

 
<p>Two Chinese police officers keep watch near the Beijing Olympic countdown clock near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, February 13, 2008. REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV</p>