For anyone who cherishes the principles that led Britain to reject Hitler's offer to safeguard the Empire and in the end voluntarily sacrifice it to finally go to war, the idea of China's communists using this year's Olympics as a huge propaganda victory must cause dismay. Nineteen years after students were mowed down by the People's Liquidation Army in the centre of the city awarded the honour of hosting the Games, the country still remains a fascist, totalitarian regime that aims missiles at democratic Taiwan to blackmail them, brutally occupies Tibet, ignores any idea of a rule of law to steal land from peasants whilst making their air unbreathable and water undrinkable, throws the elderly out of their houses to have them demolished for skyscrapers and Olympic stadia, subsidises Sudanese genocide and Mugabe's dictatorship and prevents my students from simply logging into Wikipedia or the BBC news.
Such is the regime that Churchill's latest successor visited last week where he seemed more interested in getting the Chinese to import pig trotters from Old Blighty than bothering to make the merest reference to human rights. In fact he jumped at the chance to accept the invitation to the Games' opening ceremony. There he will join other world leaders.
But he won't be joined by the Prince of Wales.
In a letter to the Free Tibet Campaign, Charles' deputy private secretary Clive Alderton wrote
As you know, His Royal Highness has long taken a close interest in Tibet and indeed has been pleased to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama on several occasions.The Prince has long been known to be a champion for Tibet and an admirer of the Dalai Lama, forced into exile since 1959. At Clarence House six years ago he received two nuns who had been tortured in the Drapchi prison in Lhasa, so one can understand his support.
You asked if the Prince of Wales would be attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. His Royal Highness will not be attending the ceremony.
Many here will remember Charles' reported antipathy to the regime leaders, whom he referred to in his leaked diaries written during the Hong Kong handover as "appalling old waxworks". And yet this is a man who at the same time actively works through his Prince's Trust-type charities with the Chinese on urban regeneration projects. I myself have seen how they improve the lives of the particularly vulnerable, such as the old forced to live in traditional hutongs heated by coal, with poor insulation and erratic water supply, forced to walk a block to the communal toilets which are little more than holes in the ground without even a partition between stalls in many.
A man who refuses to accommodate injustice while still showing a willingness to engage. Qualities few of our politicians have shown an interest in displaying for some time.