Politics cause Mayor Francia to monitor Olympics closely

By Curtis Riggs | August 6, 2008

olympics logoFreedom of Tibet an issue for practicing Buddhist
CAVE CREEK – Longtime Mayor Vincent Francia will be watching this month’s Summer Olympics in Beijing, China not only for the track events and the gymnastics. He will be paying rapt attention to the summer games to see how the Chinese handle the issue of Tibet and the protests that are sure to break out over it.

Francia, a longtime Buddhist who has used this philosophy while seeking the middle path on virtually all community issues in his five terms as mayor, says the demonstrations over the freedom of Tibet and the exile of the Dalai Lama will be coming at the right time because of the “enormous media focus” on China this month.

“They have already taken away from the torch ceremonies,” Francia said about the protests, which have already occurred prior to the beginning of the games on Friday, Aug. 8. The Chinese blocked Free Tibet websites from journalists covering the games in Beijing prior to the beginning of the games. There is talk these websites will be unblocked and already some evidence they will be opened to the writers covering the games.

franciaFrancia does not see the Chinese being able to crack down on the protesters and stop the demonstrations because of China’s high visibility this month.

“It will put the focus on the Chinese government and they do not like to be embarrassed,” he said.

He admits it may be wishful thinking to expect the Chinese to pull out of Tibet, a country they invaded in the 1950s and have occupied ever since. The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 and has lived in exile ever since.

“Generally when you conquer a country you do something with it,” he said. He never understood why China invaded Tibet in the first place.

“It’s been a long time in coming,” he said about the dramatic increase in protests over the freedom of Tibet due to the focus on the summer games.

He does not believe the protests or the embarrassment to China will be enough to get China to pull out of Tibet, however. Instead, he thinks the change will come from within.

“What will really help is that China is rapidly becoming more capitalistic and with that comes a cry for a more democratic government,” he said. China’s growing middle class will likely factor into any leanings toward democracy. “How long can the communists hold sway over China? The democratization of China will be Tibet’s best chance to have any sort of resolution with China.”

Francia says the irony of China’s crushing of Tibet is “its own roots run very deep in Buddhism.”

The protests and demonstrations could well go against the Dalai Lama’s teachings on non-violence because a second generation of Tibetans have now been born and are living in exile in India.

“They don’t line up with the non-violent personality of the Dalai Lama and are making a stand for their country,” he said. He would participate in some of the protests if he had the chance and supports the Dalai Lama sending an envoy to China for talks.