Blood Jade


    For the first time in history, Olympic medals will be made with a material other
    than gold, silver, and bronze – jade. While they are a constituent part of a grand
    effort to infuse Chinese culture into the Olympic movement’s legacy, the medals
    of the Beijing Games also symbolize China’s deep and complex relationship to
    neighboring Burma – and the brutal military regime that rules it.
    Burmese jadeite is a global business predicated on human suffering and the absence of the rule of law, and is controlled with an iron grip by Burma’s military regime. The regime led by Senior General Than Shwe grew in notoriety in September 2007 when it violently suppressed peaceful protests led by Buddhist clergy in Burma. The regime’s status as an international pariah was further cemented when it obstructed humanitarian aid to 2.4 million people affected by Nargis, a class four cyclone that hit the Irrawaddy delta region on May 3, 2008, killing 150,000. Burma’s regime has effectively consolidated military control over the entire gems industry, including jadeite, by eliminating small and independent companies from mining and forcing all sales to go through national auctions held by official government ministries in Rangoon. Gems are now Burma’s third largest export and provide the regime with an important source of foreign currency.

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