AJWS Calls on President Bush to Boycott Beijing Opening Ceremonies

China must use leverage to end genocide in Darfur; Call for opening ceremony boycott part of sweeping AJWS advocacy campaign

New York, NY; April 11, 2008 – American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is launching a sweeping national grassroots advocacy campaign aimed at ending the genocide in Darfur. The campaign includes grassroots mobilization calling on President George W. Bush not to attend the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing unless China takes concrete steps immediately to end its support for the government of Sudan. As part of the broader campaign, AJWS is partnering with Investors Against Genocide (IAG) to push for divestment from mutual funds supporting international corporations invested in Sudan, and is calling on the U.S. Government to fulfill its own obligations in Darfur by fully funding humanitarian and peacekeeping accounts.

Since 2003, the Government of Sudan has been arming and organizing militias, with backing by the Sudanese army, to engage in a genocidal campaign against the people of Darfur. To date, the conflict in Sudan has led to the deaths of more than 400,000 civilians and creation of more than 2.5 million refugees and internally displaced persons. Since the beginning of 2008 alone, some 75,000 more people have been displaced. Increasing violence is impeding the ability of humanitarian workers to provide aid to the more than 4 million now dependent on humanitarian assistance to survive.

China is Sudan’s largest foreign investor and the world’s largest player in Sudan’s multi-billion dollar oil industry. It has provided Sudan with more than $10 billion in commercial and capital investments over the last 10 years and has served as Sudan’s most vocal advocate in the United Nations.

“Without China’s support, this genocide would not have been possible,” said Ruth W. Messinger, president of AJWS. “It is appalling that the President of the United States would consider attending the opening ceremonies for the Olympic Games in Beijing when China’s record on human rights is such a poor reflection of the Olympic spirit.

“China was awarded the privilege of hosting the Olympics based on promises it would take meaningful steps to correct an otherwise dismal record on human rights. So far, China has failed to live up to its promises. The Chinese government could, however, take a step in the right direction by using its considerable leverage to pressure Sudan to end its genocide against the people of Darfur.”

According to AJWS, President Bush should not attend the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics unless China takes the following steps immediately:

  • Strongly and publicly condemns the genocide in Darfur.
  • Ends the sale of small arms to Sudan. Since 2004, China has been responsible for the sale of 90 percent of all small arms to Sudan, arms that are used as instruments of terror in efforts to rape, murder and displace the people of Darfur. AJWS is supporting the campaign by Human Rights First to end small arms sales by China to Sudan.
  • Pressures Sudan to rapidly facilitate the deployment of U.N. peacekeeping forces. China has provided “cover” for Sudan in the U.N. Security Council and through other means in its persistent obstruction of deployment of peacekeeping troops.

AJWS supports Congressional resolutions calling on President Bush not to attend the Olympics and prohibiting U.S. funding for government officials to attend the Olympics unless these conditions are met.

The AJWS campaign also focuses on congressional funding of humanitarian and peacekeeping accounts and on an effort to encourage divestment from mutual funds supporting companies invested in Sudan. Congress will soon vote on funding levels for critical humanitarian and peacekeeping accounts. AJWS is urging Congress to appropriate more than $1.7 billion dollars to alleviate refugee and humanitarian crises, such as that in Darfur. This includes $680 million for basic assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons and $384 million to support a full and effective deployment of the United Nations – African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).

Joining with IAG, AJWS is calling on its supporters to demand that their mutual fund companies divest their holdings from international corporations conducting business in Sudan, specifically in the energy and mining sectors. In March, shareholders in two Fidelity mutual funds voted on proxy resolutions requiring Fidelity to pull investments from companies that are providing capital to Sudan and its military. Close to 30% of the shareholders voted in favor of these resolutions, an unprecedented result for the first round of proxy voting on a social issue. Nineteen more Fidelity funds are scheduled to vote on “genocide-free” investing resolutions over the next two months.

“Any shareholder can submit a genocide-free investing proposal to their mutual fund, which would then be required by law to hold a vote,” Messinger said. “We are calling on all of our supporters to check the ajws.org website for the various lists of companies that are supporting this genocide. If their mutual funds are investing in these companies, they need to submit proposals – templates of which can also be found easily on the web.

“We as citizens can take action that will ultimately have a powerful affect on the ground in Darfur, and the purpose of our expansive grassroots advocacy effort is to encourage our tens of thousands of supporters to take action now.”

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Tim Lessick
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