Wednesday, April 16, 2008
GLOBALLY COMPETING NARRATIVES
he writer Anne Applebaum knows a thing or two about one-party states, and she has written extensively about Soviet communism and Eastern Europe. Her landmark work Gulag: A History was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2004. An interview on the subject some years ago greatly impressed your humble correspondent. Writing in the Washington Post, she has some thoughts on the 'Journey of Harmony'. Anne lives in Poland with her husband and two children.
Welcome to the latest Olympic sport: Put Out the Torch -- a game being followed, at least in my part of the world, with enormous enthusiasm. Over dinner in Warsaw, visitors from London brag about "their" protesters. Over breakfast in Berlin, Germans can read accounts of the ceremony's modern origins: It seems Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's filmmaker, invented the torch relay for the 1936 Berlin Olympics and then deployed it with "terrifying mastery," according to Die Welt, in a subsequent film...Not only the Chinese government needs to learn this, but apparently many patriotic overseas Chinese could use a few lessons as well. On Sunday I referred to a recent incident at Duke University, where a student's solo protest on behalf of Tibet blew up into something much bigger, when the area's Chinese students got wind of it.
But clearly the Chinese did not know better. Their confused, unprepared official reaction has wavered between outright dishonesty -- "all Torch Relay cities have given strong support for the event" -- and incoherent anger. Chinese bloggers apparently favor the latter. One posted a photograph of an anti-torch protester, along with the words "Remember him . . . he'll die a terrible death." In fact, for all of their wealth and sophistication, China's leaders still have an extremely crude understanding of global media -- you can't force the world's press to celebrate "Harmony," for goodness sake -- and of global politics, too...
Americans, Britons, Russians and, indeed, the citizens of many large nations are forced to think all the time about how their actions are perceived abroad. Why shouldn't the Chinese do so, too?
There was a confrontation on campus, and one Chinese girl (who as far as I can tell, was not involved for partisanship on either side) tried to calm down and reason with the much larger group of angry patriots. For whatever inscrutable reason, she has now been made a target of hatred.
The author of this translated radioactive fallout that struck me speechless the next day (I linked to it as an example of how truly ugly this is all getting), has received information from a friend of the young Chinese girl, seen in this video. In an update on his article yesterday, he quotes a friend of the girl who wrote to him with more background on the extent of the abuse she and her family are experiencing.
Their personal details (phone numbers, addresses, even her Chinese identity number) were posted on the "Duke Chinese Students and Scholars Association" (remember that name) website, which has evidently been actively working in the anti-Tibet propaganda field for the past month. Her friend writes, "Her parent's apartment in Qingdao was attacked with rocks, and they are in hiding." He confirmed this with a phone call to her mother.
Because all the information which led to this was disseminated through the DCSSA organisation, it is being treated as criminal incitement to violence, and it "looks like the FBI will become involved," he says. I find it distinctly creepy that these people were "tracked down" by what are being called "human flesh search engines" -- a meta-entity which straddles the globe (also involved in identifying the unfortunate Tibetan Utah resident, mis-identified by this network as the "attacker" in Paris, and who's life is now also hell because of it).
The Duke Daily paper, The Chronicle doesn't identify the girl, which is a good idea and neither shall we -- although it seems to be too late now anyway. She describes "weird e-mails and phone calls," adding, "I think it is all thanks to the DCSSA, who released all kinds of information." The DCSSA president denies it. She has filed a report with the university's police department.
The student said she has received some messages calling for her to be burned alive with oil...She is now afraid to return to China. A number of Duke student organisations (College Republicans, Duke Democrats, etc.) are calling for an investigation and the revocation of DCSSA's student group status. Good! Because these "CSSA's" are evidently nothing more than propaganda arms for China's Communist Party rulers.
"I think this is not the time to die for my country," the student said. "I love my life."
The Australian police have been given tough new powers to exercise during the April 24 torch relay in Canberra. And it's likely to be out of concerns over incitement by the likes of Zhang Rongan of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, who says at least 10,000 patriotic students and "Chinese-Australians" will show up against the Tibetan, Falun Gong, Burmese, Save Darfur, and other protesters.
"Are we going to let our motherland be shamed again? Overseas students in Australia, we have a responsibility to go defend our sacred torch. We can't let our sacred torch be put out on Australian soil!" Zhang said on the association website.Reuters notes that the torch protests have apparently sparked an "officially sanctioned protest movement."
A separate email said the small Australian capital was a base for "Falun Gong and Tibetan splittists, Xinjiang splittists, and other anti-China separatists", accusing them of joining forces with sympathetic Burmese and Vietnamese demonstrators.
"This may be the first time during the relay that the number of ethnic degenerate scum and anti-China separatists exceed the Chinese," the email said.
"Can you allow the torch to be disregarded by these ethnic degenerate scum or anti-Chinese running dogs? Can you allow them to besmirch our motherland in front of the international media camera?" it said.
A letter from Chinese authorities circulated to students in Australia asked protesters to "prevent all actions that can in any way be detrimental to the image of China".The Australian police have said they'll tolerate no security activities whatsoever by China's baby-blue special forces, the People's Liberation Army Sacred Flame Protection Unit (PLASFPU). They will face arrest if they lay hands on any protesters in Australia, according to the Canberra relay task force chairman. They'll have to stay in the bus.
Even "Red Ken" is having second thoughts about permitting the thuggy smurfs to provide security in London. He now says it was a mistake.
The Chinese Olympic delegation is exhibiting some paranoia in India, displaying some nervousness about what might happen tomorrow. It's still not clear whether Indian authorities will permit the sacred flame smurfs on their streets.
'Some Chinese delegation members felt they (Tibetans) could use a hot air balloon to disrupt the torch relay. We assured them (that) no such incident would occur,' said a senior government official.I'll go out on a limb here, and predict no Tibetan hot air balloons flying over Delhi tomorrow.
"The symbolism is great because the Chinese have gone to great lengths to get the Olympic flame to Mount Everest, to the top of the world they say. But that's not the top of the world. The North Pole is the top of the world and the Tibetan cause should be on the top of our minds."Officials in Nagano, Japan have cancelled a big stadium torch party and Taiko drum concert, saying, "We had planned this event to create a welcoming mood, but the circumstances changed." Japan has also nixed the blue meanies.
Tibetans are being blamed for almost anything in China, it seems. When a domestic flight was called back due to disruptive behaviour on board Monday, local media reported the troublemakers as a group of Tibetans. It turns out not to be so. The problem was a single Han Chinese man talking incessantly on his cell phone. When a flight attendant asked him to cool down, he responded with what she took to be a threat. No Tibetans were involved.
Frustrated young people in China, angry at CNN and other western media over their reporting of Tibetan unrest, can boogie to a new music video called "Don't be too CNN".
"CNN solemnly swears that everything on it is the truth, but I've gradually discovered this is actually a deception," the female singer croons, at times the emotion appearing to affect her pitch.China is demanding a full retraction and apology from CNN, for insults delivered by one Jack Cafferty. He apparently downplayed the quality of Chinese products ('poisoned toys and poisoned dog food, junk') and rated China's Communist Party leadership with poor marks ('the same goons and thugs for 50 years'). Cafferty has said worse about President Bush. Get over it China, he insults everybody. CNN apologised.
Due to the torch fiasco in Paris last week, Chinese netizens are organising a boycott against retail chain Carrefour. They claim one of Carrefour's shareholders has donated money to Dalai Lama, according to the boycott call on a Chinese web portal. "Let them see the Chinese people's power, and the power of the Internet," the post said.
His Holiness was warmly welcomed this week in Seattle for a five day working visit. That is, until hundreds of Chinese protesters showed up on cue at the University of Washington. He was greeted inside with a standing ovation, and introduced by the university president as the "pre-eminent spiritual leader of our time." Outside, the "patriotic" signs accused him of being a "liar" and a "CIA-funded militant," while inside he told students that "destruction of your neighbor or enemy is destruction of yourself."
Chinese patriots even hired an aircraft to fly over Qwest Field during the 5 day "Seeds of Compassion" event, towing a banner which read, "Dalai Lama, PLS stop supporting riots!" Which idiot thought that one up? Probably the same idiot who wasted his money on it.
Bill Tieleman, a columnist for the online news site 24 Hours Vancouver, has received three death threats over his April 8 column, which took issue with China's human rights record. Police are investigating the threats, and have told him the email messages all originated in China.
- I can kill you. you are wait!!!!!!!! (sic).The second one is interesting, unless it's just a weird coincidence. CKNW is a Vancouver area radio station. Originated in China? Tieleman is heard on Monday mornings on CKNW. Wai Boycott 2008 Communist Olympics.
- I am in CKNW, I am normal Chinese. I must kill you and your family.
- Kill you! you clean your neck (sic), enjoy your last day, just wait, you will pay for this!
The first case of Chinese patriotic vigilantism that I've been aware of, were the attacks against a UK bed company in Sheffield (linked here on Mar. 28). Since then these incidents are clearly on the rise. Overseas Tibetans need to really watch their backs, unfortunately. A shopkeeper in San Rafael, California is being harassed for his activities on behalf of his homeland.
Jamyang Nordup, 50, a former monk and owner of Tibetan Culture House, a retail shop at 1223 Fourth St., said he has received hundreds of harassing messages since Tuesday night. None has been a death threat, he said.Local police are treating the case as a harassment complaint. Nordup believes he is targeted because his contact details are available on the Tibetan Association of Northern California's website, of which he is vice-president. The text messages and emails are disgusting. He doesn't say what the phone calls were like, but he says there have been no death threats against himself yet. A van parks for hours in front of his house, but he isn't afraid for himself. He's afraid for those in Tibet.
The sources are unknown, although Nordup said he suspects the messages are coming from overseas via the Chinese government.
"I feel like the whole thing is a set-up of the government," he said. "This is not individuals."
"It is sad, but we're handling it OK because of our practice," he said. "The Dalai Lama is telling us, don't be mad.I don't know how they do it, I really don't. Look at what they're dealing with now; try to conceptualize what it's been like for those in Tibet over the last half century, and their struggle for dignity basically ignored by most of the world til now. Having to keep their civilisation, traditions, nationhood alive in exile, always depending on the good will of others. Don't be mad. How do they do it?
"Everyone has to be treated equally with compassion."