Spielberg walks out on Beijing games in protest over Darfur
'Conscience will not allow me to continue' —
Director had been under pressure from activists
13 February 2008 (The Guardian) Steven Spielberg has resigned as artistic adviser to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, in protest at China's failure to distance itself from genocide and human rights abuses in Darfur.
Hollywood director Steven Spielberg, third from left, looks at a model of Beijing's National Stadium with Chinese film maker Zhang Yimou, second from left, and Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice president of the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, left, after a news conference announcing the creation team for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing April 16, 2006. Rights groups on Wednesday Feb. 13, 2008 praised Hollywood director Steven Spielberg's announcement that he would shun involvement with the Beijing Olympics opening and closing ceremonies because China was not doing enough to help end the crisis in Darfur. (AP Photo/Color China Photo)
The Oscar-winning director, who had been working since last year to help choreograph the games' opening ceremony, had previously warned Beijing that he would withdraw unless it did more to distance itself from the violence.
In a statement released last night, the director said: "I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue business as usual. At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur."
Hollywood stars have been at the forefront of an international campaign linking China to violence in the Darfur region of Sudan, saying that money and weapons from Beijing have helped fuel a conflict which has claimed 200,000 lives and forced 2.5 million people from their homes.
Spielberg, who directed the Holocaust drama Schindler's List and founded an educational foundation dedicated to teaching young people about the genocidal crimes of the Nazis - has also come under criticism from Darfur activists, who have accused him of double standards for working so closely with a partner of the Sudanese government.
Last year the actor Mia Farrow wrote an editorial for the Wall Street Journal saying the director risked becoming a modern-day Leni Riefenstahl – the German film director who became one of the Nazis' chief propagandists.
In April, Spielberg wrote a letter to the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, calling on China to take firm action to stop the violence in Sudan, but received no response to his request for a meeting.
The director has donated about $1m (£500,000) to aid groups working in Darfur to protect the mainly non-Arab civilian population, which has been targeted by pro-government Arab militias.
In yesterday's statement, Spielberg said Sudan's government bore most responsibility for "these ongoing crimes" and said China "should be doing more to end the continuing human suffering there".
China, which buys two-thirds of Sudan's oil, has blocked punitive moves by the UN security council, and according to Amnesty International it has sold tens of millions of pounds worth of weapons.
Addressing a protest outside the Chinese mission to the United Nations in New York, Farrow said: "China hopes that these games will be its post-Tiananmen Square coming out party. But how can Beijing host the Olympic Games at home and underwrite genocide in Darfur?"
Earlier yesterday, nine Nobel Peace Prize laureates – including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel and Jody Williams – wrote to Hu urging China to uphold Olympic ideals by pressing Sudan to stop atrocities in Darfur.
Copyright © 2008 The Guardian