Agam's Gecko
Monday, August 18, 2008
Fake minorities
Non-minority children dress up as minorities for China's big night.
Photo: AAP

need to make an important addition to the article posted here on Friday, when I wrote that Olympic visitors are "not likely" to easily find pirated copies of designer products in Beijing's markets until after the world goes home next week. I was almost certain that, while counterfeit Tibetan history is to be offered as an Olympic "cultural event" with pride, pirated Vuittons and Guccis would cause Chinese loss of face during the Olympic glare and would therefore be stashed away until later.

Silly me, it's business as usual! (How could I forget the bottom line? To get rich is glorious, said DXP, and there's money in them there tourists.)
"Business is good. We've got a lot of new customers now due to the Olympics," said a young woman who gave only her surname, Wu, selling pirated Dolce & Gabbana, Polo, and other clothing at Beijing's Silk Street market.
Vendors at the market are even decked out in counterfeit Olympic volunteer shirts, with one of them telling the AFP, "It's to show our Olympic spirit!" She has that right; it's the spirit of Beijing 2008 for sure.

Before the games started, we had counterfeit "contented minorities" in Lhasa and Kashgar, with local people ordered to stay in their homes and away from windows while the choreography for Her Torchiness took place in their streets.

Opening day was all about this unique Olympic spirit, with (so far) three episodes of fakery revealed in the Riefenstahl-like glorification of Han supremacy over happy, dancing minorities. The computer-generated "camera coverage" of the fireworks is the least of these, although it reportedly took a year to perfect the illusion.

A little girl captivated millions of hearts that night, singing "Ode to the Motherland" -- with the verse about Mao excised. Also edited out of China's history lesson to the world: the Great Leap Forward, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and everything else between 1949 - 1978. That part of the programme has become known as the Great Fast Forward.

The next day, China Daily hailed the impossibly cute performer as a new singing superstar -- until someone let it slip that she hadn't sung a note. The girl with the heavenly voice was deemed by "someone in the Politburo" as insufficiently perfect in appearance, so she was hidden away while the other, more "visually perfect" girl pretended to sing.

For once, many Chinese expressed disgust and shame at this treatment by the powerful, neurotic perfection-freaks upon a defenceless little girl. What better example could there ever be that for the CCP, appearance trumps reality every time. I wonder if there would have been this much criticism from within, had both girls not been Han.

It was apparently her less than perfectly aligned teeth which ruined the tiny singer's chance to be on stage that night. Surely by now everyone has seen the big smile on Michael Phelps, the undisputed athletic champion of 2008. Can anyone imagine the Chinese Olympic Committee telling Phelps, "Sorry, your teeth aren't straight, you're off the team."?

Would the Chinese people really have felt ashamed if the world saw who actually possessed that magical little voice? I doubt it, and if any would feel that way, they need help not encouragement. Yet musical director Chen Qigang said the switch was made for the national interest. Lin Miaoke had better be invited to sing in person at the closing. It's the least those jerks could do after treating her so shabbily.

Yet even this pales in comparison to the third fakery on opening night. The official event programme describes the scene:
"Fifty-six children from 56 Chinese ethnic groups cluster around the Chinese national flag, representing the 56 ethnic groups."
Do the 'goose step'
Leni would have been proud.
Photo: AP / Itsuo Inouye
The happy minority kids then hand the flag off to PLA soldiers, who goose-step off with it (didn't I say Riefenstahl-like?). This time it was an official at the Galaxy Children's Art Troupe (which provided these performers) who spilled the beans, telling the Asian Wall Street Journal that Galaxy is an exclusively Han troupe.

Instead of one Han Chinese child among the 56 ethnic representatives, there were 56 Han children and no ethnic representatives. "I assume they think the kids were very natural looking and nice," said the deputy director of the group. And I assume by "they" he means the Politburo, and I'm sure he's right. Natural looking and nice, Han majority kids with perfectly straight teeth wearing the costumes of China's conquered minorities.

Would this not cause outrage in practically any other country? It certainly would in any country that actually values its ethnic diversity. If it were my country, we'd be having a Royal Commission of Enquiry already, and loud protests by more than 56 groups at Parliament Hill. But as nearly every report on this story makes clear, such practices are normal in China and it will hardly be noticed. Happens all the time.

Racist Park
Truth in advertising: Chinese Ethnic Culture Park was previously known as Racist Park.
Photo: unknown
Thus it was a terrific choice of venue when, just a few days later, Tibet supporters drew attention to an "ethnic minority theme park" in Beijing, now known as the Chinese Ethnic Culture Park. I say "now known," because it used to be identified by street signs such as the one seen here directing visitors to "Racist Park." Here, ethnic nationalities may be observed living in re-creations of their natural habitat. With some exceptions.
Until recently, the park employed Tibetan monks from the south-western province of Sichuan. Tibetan dancers and singers still add some colour to the Tibetan section, but the monks are gone.

'They haven't been here for several months,' a shop assistant said last week. 'They're coming back next year.'

Wang Kun of the park management office also told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa last week that the monks were unlikely to return until after the Olympics.

'Earlier this year, we had them, but because of some business, they were called back to their hometowns,' Wang said.
Heh, that's a good one -- they had some "business." It's just a little thing called Strike Hard / Re-Educate, and it's the CCP's business, not the monks'. Can we go look at the Uighurs now, daddy?
A few scraggy goats scavenge below the Beijing version of the Emin minaret but there are no donkeys, and no Uighurs.

'There are none of those people,' said one of the three Han Chinese workers keeping watch last week over the park's Uighur area...
There are no Uighurs, no Kazakhs, Uzbecks, Tajiks or Hui -- in other words, no Muslims. Mongolians (who adhere to Tibetan Buddhism) are there as human exhibits, Tibetan monks are out. Costumed Dai (Thai), Korean, Miao and other ethnicities are present, while rich people gaze at the unpeopled Han Chinese area, from their balconies at the nearby Holiday Inn.
When asked about the absence of Muslims, Wang Kun said it was 'because some minorities don't have many people.'

Wang also cited a lack of space in the staff dormitories 'because now it's the Olympics, so we have some more performers' from other minorities.

'If you invite some Muslims, you have to make some special arrangements for them,' she said.
Oh no, not special arrangements! (Does he mean the Segway-borne SWAT team?) Question: Does the glistening new Beijing airport not have a musholla (Muslim prayer room)? They seem all the rage these days.

Yet at this ethnic theme park, even some of the specimens who are on display seem a little questionable.
At the ethnic culture park, three women lounged in the heat of the Mongolia section in traditional Mongolian gowns.

Speaking perfect Mandarin, they insisted they were Mongolian, but when asked to say common phrases such as "Welcome to the Beijing Olympics" in the Mongol language, they could not.

"Some things are harder to translate into our language," said one.
Right. That "welcome" thing can be a tricky, culturally-specific sentiment for sure, and not easily translated (do I really need to mark that as sarcasm?).

Among those who drew all this attention to Ethnic Park was Pema Yoko, a young Japanese citizen who has a Japanese mother and a Tibetan father. Along with some friends, Pema hoped to speak on behalf of all the Tibetans who are currently gagged, but the welcome didn't translate well for her either. She didn't demonstrate but merely watched the action and then spoke to reporters.
"Chinese people have the right to be proud to be Chinese. Why can't Tibetan people have the right to be Tibetan? It is our country. It was invaded by China."

"The Chinese people deserve to hear the truth about what is happening in Tibet. The Tibetan people are undergoing psychological torture," she said.
Bravo, Pema, even though the Chinese people weren't allowed to hear you. I doubt they've heard of John Rae either, the ITN journalist mistaken for a protester by Chinese police who dragged him away and roughed him up while he told them he was a journalist. Ray says he was assaulted, and it certainly does sound that way.

Thankfully, some Chinese people present didn't feel proud at that moment.
A Chinese passerby told The Times: "What I saw is the security guards were very rude to the reporters. They pushed them. I heard orders being shouted by the officers. 'Just use your hands,' they said. 'Get to the reporters and cover their camera lenses'. As a Chinese person I feel bad."
The passerby won't have the opportunity to feel bad about Ji Sizun, because reporting on this stuff is strictly forbidden.
Ji Sizun, 58, a self-described grassroots legal activist from Fujian province, was arrested on August 11, 2008. On August 8, Ji had applied to the Deshengmenwai police station in Beijing’s Xicheng District for a permit to hold a protest in one of the city’s three designated "protest zones." In his application, Ji stated that the protest would call for greater participation of Chinese citizens in political processes, and denounce rampant official corruption and abuses of power. He was arrested after checking back at the police station on the status of his application, witnesses told Human Rights Watch.
There have been 77 applications for Olympic protests at these protest zones, involving 149 people (including three foreigners). No such protests have happened, and there's no information on how many applicants have been arrested like Mr. Ji. (update: "...all the applications were withdrawn, suspended or rejected.")

Behind the screen
"Oh look honey, I wonder what's behind this lovely picturesque screen?"
Photo: Free Tibet Campaign
These are all extremely embarrassing issues for the IOC and the Beijing Organising Committee. Tim Johnson at McClatchy Newspapers offers a transcript of part of the August 14 press conference without any comment (which would be superfluous).

What's on the menu? Grilled IOC spokesperson.
Question: Hi, I’m Alex Thompson from Channel Four News. My question’s mercifully short, and it’s for Giselle. Given that China got these games largely on making promises on human rights and press freedom, and given that the Chinese government has lied through its teeth about keeping those promises, is the IOC in any way embarrassed?

Giselle Davies, spokeswoman for the International Olympic Committee: Good morning, Alex.

Thompson: Good morning.

Davies: There were certainly some hopes and aspirations outlayed in 2001 as to how the games could have a positive impact on the wider social framework. And I think we have to note that there have been enormous steps forward in a number of areas. You’re here reporting on the games. The world is watching. And there will be commentaries made appraising how the games have had an impact, wider through bringing sports, athletes and the world’s attention.

Interestingly, I saw that the Associated Press did a survey whereby their readers say that 55 percent of the respondents of the United States believe the choice was the right choice to come to Beijing, China …

Thompson: Yes, but I’m not asking that. I’m asking the IOC if they are in any way embarrassed about the manifest failure on behalf of the Chinese government to keep their promises. It’s a very straightforward question: Are you embarrassed?

Davies: We are very proud of the fact that these games are progressing with spectacular sports, spectacular sports venues, operationally running very smoothly, and that’s what we’re here focusing on.

Thompson: I’m asking whether you’re embarrassed. I’m not asking about how well the games have been run or how wonderful the venues are. Are you embarrassed?

Davies: I think I’ve answered your question by explaining…

Thompson: I don’t think anyone in this room, if I may speak, I may be stepping out of line, but I don’t think anybody thinks you’ve answered the question. Is the IOC embarrassed about the Chinese government not keeping those promises?

Davies: We’re very pleased with how the organizers are putting on a good sporting event. That’s what this is. The IOC’s role and remit is to bring sport and the Olympic values to this country. That is what is happening, and the organizers have put on an operationally sound games for the athletes. This is an event, first and foremost, for the athletes, and the athletes are giving us extremely positive feedback about how they see these games being held for them.

Thompson: Well, Giselle, we’re certainly not getting anywhere are we? Let’s try it once more time. Is the IOC embarrassed about the Chinese government’s not keeping promises on both press freedom and human rights? One more chance.

Davies: Well, I think probably your colleagues in the room would like to have a chance at questions as well. I think I’ve answered your question.
Yikes. This must be the reason that all subsequent press conferences have been cancelled (though there's one scheduled for today).

While on the subject of "Welcome to Beijing Olympics," here's a story that hasn't had any international attention. Taiwanese cheerleaders who wished to encourage their team (Taiwan has its own Olympic team) were detained at Beijing Airport and refused entry. Cheerleading team captain Yang Hui-ju said she was taken to an interrogation room while her bags were combed for anything incriminating. No flags were found because they didn't bring any.
Yang said the airport police asked her why she was visiting China, to which she responded: "I’ve come to cheer for Taiwan."

The police asked Yang how many matches she would attend to cheer for Taiwan and she replied "maybe seven or eight games."

"Why cheer at so many games?" the police responded, Yang said.

After an hour of questioning, Yang said the airport police said "higher-ups" had "ordered" that she and her friend be sent back immediately. They were put on a flight to Hong Kong.
Darn those "higher-ups." Perfect teeth, presentable minorities, what else do they want? More perks like these ones?
The 200 female guides who led each country's athletes onto the National Stadium during last week's opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games had to strip naked to qualify for the job, a local media report said Friday...

During the selection process, the women were required to strip so teachers judging whether they were qualified could measure their body proportions, The Beijing News said.

In an interview with one of the girls who competed for the high profile job, the 20-year-old college student Zhang Fan told the paper that the girls were put in a room and teachers measured them with a ruler.

No specifics were given but the measurements were called 'bone measurements' which typically include measuring the width of shoulders and waists, length of waists and height.

The women had to be at least 1.66 metres tall, have a pretty face and possess youthful energy, the report said.
With Politburo members judging little girls' teeth, one has to wonder how many of those old men were among these "teachers." But maybe the lovely hostesses didn't mind -- at least they weren't in the People's Liberation Army contingent:
And on Friday, state media said the nearly 900 soldiers operating the huge scroll that formed the centrepiece of last week's show had to stay hidden under the structure for up to seven hours, wearing nappies because they were not allowed toilet breaks.
No degradation is too much to endure for the Motherland, I guess.

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