Spielberg Mulls Quitting Olympics to Pressure Chinese on Darfur

Steven Spielberg, under pressure from Darfur activists, may quit his post as artistic adviser to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, unless China takes a harder line against Sudan, a representative of the film director told ABC News.

China, Sudan's largest oil customer and perennial defender, has come under renewed scrutiny in the lead up to the Olympics, as the country juggles its need for cheap energy with its desire to host a trouble-free games.

As celebrities-cum-activists increasingly link the ongoing genocide with China's patronage, some — most notably and vocally, the actress Mia Farrow — have accused Spielberg of complicity, by not using his prominence and position to pressure the Chinese government to change course.

"Is Mr. Spielberg, who in 1994 founded the Shoah Foundation to record the testimony of survivors of the holocaust, aware that China is bankrolling Darfur's genocide?" Farrow and her son Ronan wrote in a March Wall Street Journal editorial.

In that same piece, "The Genocide Olympics," Farrow compared Spielberg to the Nazi director Leni Riefenstahl whose film "Olympia" was a paean to the 1936 Berlin Games.

"Does Mr. Spielberg really want to go down in history as the Leni Riefenstahl of the Beijing Games," Farrow wrote.

Days after Farrow's editorial, Spielberg wrote an open letter to Hu Jintao, president of China. "I am writing this letter to you, not as one of the overseas artistic advisors to the Olympic Ceremonies, but as a private citizen who has made a personal commitment to do all I can to oppose genocide. … Accordingly, I add my voice to those who ask that China change its policy toward Sudan and pressure the Sudanese government to accept the entrance of United Nations peacekeepers to protect the victims of genocide in Darfur," Spielberg wrote.

Excluding that letter, Spielberg and his representatives have, until now, been tight-lipped on what additional action the director might take.

"Steven will make a determination in the next few weeks regarding his work with the Chinese. Our main interest is ending the genocide. No one is clear on the best way to do this," Spielberg's spokesman Andy Spahn told ABCNEWS.com.

Spahn said "all options were on the table," including quitting, but much would depend on an anticipated statement on Sudan by the Chinese government expected in the coming days.

"We expect to hear something from the Chinese government sometime soon, very soon. We're pretty far down the road in discussions and then we'll decide if the path is productive or not and then consider other options," Spahn said.

"Steven is one [of] many advisers to the Beijing Games and he is trying to use the games to engage the Chinese on this issue. … We are in the midst of that right now. We're engaged in a little bit of a back-and-forth private dialogue," Spahn said.

Spahn said Spielberg has contributed $1 million to aid groups working in Darfur. He is helping to plan the games' opening ceremonies and is not being paid.

Farrow is in France filming a movie and was unavailable for comment.

Recently, however, she told National Public Radio: "From looking so intensely at this it was apparent that there was one thing that China holds more dear than its unfettered access to Sudanese oil and that is its successful staging on the 2008 Olympic Games."

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