Agam's Gecko
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Paris torch fiasco
Tibetans and their supporters in Paris yesterday.
Photo: AFPTV

s Beijing's torch of pride wends its way across the world, China's leaders must be wishing those inscrutable foreigners would simply follow its own lead and enforce social harmony in a rigid and unyielding fashion. After all, a small group of malcontents haven't been permitted to shake up their country so much, have they? At least, nothing that a few tens of thousands of troops and a few well-placed rounds can't deal with. That's how you build a harmonious society. And re-education, lots of re-education, of the patriotic variety.

When even Party members are now undergoing strict ideological loyalty tests, and the risk of death does not deter those commoners intent on expressing their deepest beliefs -- to stand on the truth -- the real underdevelopment of the permanent ruling party leadership of China is more than apparent. There may be technocrats adept at managing the economic boom, keeping the growth and material modernization humming along. But when the base political ideology has been handed down since Mao's time, through generations of cadres indoctrinated at party schools and universities, the same mindset seems to be coming out the other end after more than half a century.

Presented with a serious ideological crisis, China's modern leaders show that, in this particular field, it is a least developed nation. When emergency strikes, new thinking or bold initiatives are not the order of the day. Falling back on Maoist revolutionary slogans, launching political work offensives, and ordering everyone to be harmonious at gunpoint -- that's where it's at.

But most of the world doesn't work that way, for the simple reason that humans don't work that way. Democratic societies know this; the CCP and some others don't understand it at all. The party leaders are actually getting an eduction by watching their torch, in which they've placed so much significance for China's pride and glory, as it travels around the world. Cheers are permitted; catcalls also permitted. It must be disorienting for them to see how important -- sacred, even -- is the space for opposing views in those foreign lands.

The journey of the torch gives many in the world a chance to speak to the issues of rights and freedoms within China and (yes, I'll say it) her occupied territories. Those "blasphemers" of the sacred flame would wish to speak directly to China's people, if they could. But the Chinese aren't allowed to see the pictures, read or hear the accounts of what really happened in Istanbul, London and Paris; or what will happen in San Francisco, Buenos Aires, New Delhi, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Canberra, Nagano or Seoul. Of course, nothing unplanned will take place in Pyongyang. But this torch tour has made of the world, a stage.

It was nice to hear shouts of "Hu Jia!" (recently imprisoned for his essays on freedom) yesterday in Paris, along with "Liberte' pour le Tibet!" I'm quite sure Burma wasn't forgotten either, nor Sudan. It was not nice to see instances of aggression by patriotic China-supporters against the opposition protesters. Apparently the former were given free run to go anywhere and everywhere (since they were only "celebrating", was the official justification), while the Tibetan Freedom camp had to stay within certain boundaries (since they were obviously protesting).

If London had set the bar high, in support for Tibet in her hour of need, Paris has cleared it easily. Passions will be high in San Francisco tomorrow, and with its huge Chinese population, so will be the risk of conflict. I encourage all Tibetans and their supporters to read carefully His Holiness' statement in the previous post. The world is watching -- non-violence is the way to go, no matter what outrage they may throw in your face. And frankly, I would consider this quote from Defa Tong, spokesman for the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, as nearly making that category. "The situation in China is at its best now," he said.

Some controversy is bubbling over the conduct of those Chinese security agents who've been guarding the flame. "Who?" I can hear you ask. I also thought those guys in the nice blue and white track suits and matching caps were athletes from China's national team, or something. I noticed that they were the ones who formed the first ring around the foreign runners in London and Paris, with layers of local security forces (on bicycles in London, roller skates in Paris) around them, with another layer on foot. The baby-blue track suit guys were also the ones who extinguished the torch multiple times in Paris (early reports said twice, later reports said four times).

No, these are members of some branch of China's security forces. The chief of the London 2012 games, Sebastian Coe, was overheard talking about them yesterday, by technical mishap.
Coe's comments were directed at Chinese officials guarding the Olympic flame during its tumultuous journey through London on Sunday, when several protesters attempted to disrupt the route.

He said that organisers of the French leg of the torch relay, through Paris on Monday, should "get rid of those guys" because the Chinese officials "tried to push me out of the way three times."

"They are horrible. They did not speak English ... I think they were thugs."
The warning may have come too late for the French to have made an adjustment to security arrangements, but the Australians made their decision some time ago that they will have no use for China's own personnel in providing security in Australia.
"As the attorney-general said in Australia some weeks ago, we will not be having Chinese security forces or Chinese security services providing security for the torch when it is in Australia," Mr Rudd told reporters during a joint press conference at 10 Downing Street with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

"We, Australia, are providing that security. What Olympic officials the Chinese bring to Canberra is a matter for them but on the security front, we will be providing that."
The Chinese government is again getting rather worked up over the protests, which actually began with Uyghurs in Istanbul. If Chinese citizens are prevented from seeing or hearing about any of these protests, do they also censor the utterances of their own Foreign Ministry, I wonder?
"We express our strong condemnation of the deliberate disruption of the Olympic torch relay by 'Tibetan independence' separatist forces," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said in a statement posted at www.fmprc.gov.cn.

Beijing Olympics spokesman Sun Weide called the Paris demonstrations "blasphemy."


"The reports by foreign media are false in claiming that the Olympic torch was forced to be extinguished," she said. She did not detail her version of events.
Heh. I've got video capture of the baby-blue security agents turning it off twice.

CNN has an interactive map of the totalitarian torch route around the world. Bangkok on the 19th, but I still need to find the city route map. A political cartoonist for Bangkok's English-language newspaper The Nation has a collection of Tibet-related artwork, available from the 2Bangkok website.

A few last minute notes now. The Channel 4 "Dispatches" program, Undercover in Tibet is available for viewing at Google Video. Wai to Tibet Talk.

Some excellent insight into the propaganda machine now cranking up into high gear, can be found at the Beijing Newspeak blog. The writer worked for Xinhua for several years. Be sure to peruse the comments, especially as some secretive "former co-workers" chime in. Wai to Dan, the author of Tibeto-logic in his comments section.

And Jamyang Norbu's new blog is added to our blogroll.

[Late addition] I had meant to include a link to this article on the tortuous journey -- especially since I sort of borrowed his sporting expression used therein. The author has kindly linked to us at his own blog, The Monkey Tennis Centre, which I've been reading for a few months now (until last month happened). Thanks Mike.

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