The Iraqi National Congress had one. Saudi Arabia has one. Zimbabwe wanted one, but was reportedly turned down by Bell Pottinger. China is looking for one -- a PR firm willing to take a little heat.
Itís too bad the infamous Eddie von Kloberg isnít around to counsel China. The former head of Washington World Group took great pride as PR counselor to the damned. Saddam Hussein, Mobuto Sese Seko (former leader of the then-Zaire) and Romaniaís Nicolae Ceausescu all graced von Klobergís client list. Von Kloberg, who used to say ďShame is for sissies,Ē would have jumped on the China business. Alas, von Kloberg committed suicide in `05, leaping from the top of a castle in Rome. To the end, a PR master.
Back to the task at hand. Media censoring, dissident jailing, Tibet repressing, religion persecuting and Sudan bolstering China seems to think PR is the magic elixir to make its problems disappear. It believes sprinkling a little PR pixie dust on the media will just do it. Note to China: itís the repressive policies, stupid. All the PR in the world cannot sugar-coat that grim reality. China made an empty promise to improve its human rights record to win the Olympics. It didnít come through, and now must pay a price.
Protesters in London and Paris have made spectacles of the Olympic Torch run, a worldwide media platform that is a gift to all opposed to Chinaís policies. China had considered the Olympics an opportunity to showcase its economic and political might. That has backfired. It is sweet irony that the PR build-up to the Games has provided a worldwide media spotlight to shine on the human rights woes of China. The Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee deserves a round of applause from activists throughout the world.
Chinese officials canít wait until May 4 when the Torch finally reaches China, and the government can crack down on critics and stage-manage a smooth Torch procession throughout the country until the August 6 arrival in Beijing.