Conservative MEP Edward McMillan-Scott has urged Gordon Brown to lead a Europe-wide debate as to whether the 2008 Olympics should be boycotted in protest at the communist dictatorship’s record on human rights.

Peterborough’s Evening Telegraph reports Mr McMillan-Scott’s words:

"There is continuing evidence of persecution, and even genocide, in China.  The civilised world must seriously consider shunning China – and using the Beijing Olympics to send the clear message that such abuses of human rights are not acceptable.  The debate must take place – whether the countries of the European Union are present at the Beijing Olympics or whether they stay away."

"I believe that everyone has the right to practise a religion of their choice without persecution, imprisonment or torture. Christians, Buddhists – especially in Tibet – and Muslims are all persecuted.  Human rights should be endorsed by the Olympic movement, and it is time for the European Union to enter the debate."

In addition to internal repression, a totalitarian population policy and heavy restrictions on press freedom there are many reasons to worry about China’s role in the world.  Because of its permanent seat on the UN Security Council it is a leading obstacle to progress in Sudan, for example.  Hollywood star and Darfur campaigner George Clooney has recently challenged Steven Spielberg about his role in choreographing the opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics.

Others believe that China’s poor environmental record should be subject to intense examination ahead of next year’s Olympics.

A boycott may not be helpful but there is certainly justification in debating China’s record on human rights over the next year.  Mr McMillan-Scott is to be applauded for helping to initiate that debate.

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