Agam's Gecko
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Friendly Beijing policeman
Beijing police apparently did not participate in the friendliness re-education sessions.
Photo: Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

t the friendly, harmoniously authoritarian Olympics, Chinese police and military are frightening the tourists with their "stone faces" and really should try to smile more, says a senior IOC official. Evidently the security forces weren't required to take the friendliness and politeness courses. Chairman of the IOC's marketing commission, Gerhard Heiberg, said he had taken up the issue with Chinese officials.
"We think that in particular the military and police can behave in a different manner," Heiberg told the Norwegian daily Aftenposten. "They look like stone faces."

"The Chinese are scaring the wits out of foreigners. We can't have it like this," said Heiberg. "When, in addition, they have weapons and look scary, it is even worse."
Of course, scaring the wits out of visitors with stony-faced paramilitary police is a minor issue in the scheme of things. As far as I know, nobody promised friendly policemen. It's probably nothing more than terra cotta warrior syndrome.

But other promises were made, apparently in bad faith. It isn't just the assurances China made both before and after the Olympics were awarded seven years ago which have been broken (better human rights, media freedom, more tolerance, etc.). Further promises made barely a few weeks ago are now shown to be as hollow as the officials that uttered them.

White House, Beijing
So you're a dissatisfied Chinese citizen who wants to protest, eh? Why not try the White House?
Photo: Claro Cortes IV / REUTERS
The scepticism over the approved areas for "demonstrations" last month appear to have been well-founded. The authorities claim their citizens enjoy full rights to petition over their grievances, or to protest in three designated "protest pens" in Beijing parks (after their application is "approved"). [Here are photos of some possible protest locations at the demonstration-approved "World Park" - perfect for the budding hyper-nationalist with imagined grievances.]

But in truth, petitioners are not permitted to enjoy this right until after the games are over. The "protest parks" are deserted, and applications to protest are never approved. Some Chinese citizens who have trusted this promise and tried to follow the government's requirements, have found that the applications are not even accepted. Others found out about the official hoax the hard way.
Liu Xueli, from Luoyang City, Henan Province, travelled to Beijing to appeal to authorities about the forced evictions in his village to make way for the Olympics, but was taken away before he could clarify why he was there.

Liu Xueli and other dissidents made their application through legal means, according to a report by Boxun.com.

But they were told that they needed to wait until after the conclusion of the opening ceremony before they could be granted approval.
Mr. Liu's house was then raided, and he is now detained in a forced labour camp.

Eiffel Tower, Beijing
France been getting you down lately? Sarko doesn't know his place? Picket the Eiffel Tower!
Photo: Claro Cortes IV / REUTERS
Instructions have been issued to security forces, to keep the foreign media from even seeing the petitioners. An August 6 memo was found by a petitioner and passed to the media.
The memo said: "Today there were again four German reporters coming to film near the State Letters and Complaints Reception Office. According to the requirement of the Central Party Conference Office and State Letters and Complaints Office, local interceptors are strictly prohibited from staying near the Central and State Letter and Complaints Offices so as to avoid being sighted by overseas reporters. Relevant personnel will be held accountable for causing negative influence."
Perhaps someone skilled in the intricacies of doublespeak could explain why the State Letters and Complaints Office doesn't permit anyone bearing such letters and complaints from being near it. Either the office's sign is wrong, or this is "permission" with CCP (not Chinese) characteristics.

Foreign freedom-loving demonstrators have already had a number of successes during the first days of the games. Several groups calling for religous freedom have protested in or around Tiananmen Square, and the Tibetan flag has been displayed in a number of locations. And, for the first time since the Communist revolution, an uncensored radio program was broadcast in the capital. Isn't electronic miniaturization wonderful?

Tower of London, Beijing
Has Gordon Brown annoyed you with his reckless absence from your party? Let him know by shouting at the Tower of London!
Photo: Claro Cortes IV / REUTERS
The public protest actions have been pounced on within seconds by security forces, and around two dozen foreigners deported from the country -- in some cases before they actually did anything. One Canadian had his own expulsion flight ticket charged to his own confiscated credit card, which seems more than a little bit illegal. A partial list of incidents is here.

But foreigners know the worst that can happen to them is to get roughed up a bit (like the Tibetan girl thrown down and bounced around on the floor on Sunday) and then expelled. Most courageous are those Chinese citizens who, despite the obvious risks to life and limb, demand justice for themselves, and those who attempt to exercise what the government assures them are their other "rights" -- to worship, for example.

Mr. Hua Huiqi is a "house-church" worshipper who has been subject to years of detentions, beatings and threats because of his religious practice. His 76 year old mother is the oldest inmate at Beijing Women's Prison, serving a 2 year sentence for appealing for her son's release from an earlier detention.

US Capitol, Beijing
Nancy Pelosi and others from this institution visited Dharamsala during the Tibet uprising, and they gave that award to Dalai Lama last October. Make your voice heard!
Photo: Claro Cortes IV / REUTERS
Mr. Hua has been under constant surveillance during the harmonious Olympic party, and security police had warned him not to even try going to church last weekend. But he and his brother slipped past police guards outside their house very early last Sunday morning, and were on their way to Kuanjie Protestant Church (where Mr. Hua was baptized in 1992), when they were intercepted by "religous affairs" police (is this China or Saudi Arabia?). President Bush was also intending to worship that morning at the same church.

Mr. Hua and his brother were beaten by 7-8 plainclothes police as they were hustled into separate cars and taken for interrogation. After 4 or 5 hours' detention Mr. Hua was able to escape when his minders fell asleep, and he sent a letter to Human Rights in China.
"They asked me why I was going to Kuanjie Protestant Church to worship and threatened me, saying, 'You are not allowed to go to Kuanjie Protestant Church because President Bush is going there today. If you... go again, we will break your legs. We brought you here to wait for orders from our superiors. We shall see how they want to deal with you,'" Mr. Hua wrote.
Hua Huiqi remains in hiding, afraid to return to his home.

Not only does China have its own religious police, it seems that it has a detachment of art police as well. The Chinese painter Zhang Hongtu, now based in New York, was carrying one of his works bound for an exhibition called "Go Game, Beijing!" at the German Embassy. The painting was titled, "Bird's Nest, in the Style of Cubism."
Customs officials told Zhang that the painting could not enter China because it contains "unacceptable" wording, the depiction of the stadium "isn't good enough," and the colors are "too dark and dull."
You just can't make this stuff up. The painting is reproduced at the link.

A swimmer from China has just won the gold medal in swimming to freedom, and is now asking for political asylum in Taiwan.
The man, identified as Jai Wei, 40, told the coast guard he spent eight hours swimming from the Chinese coastal city of Xiamen to Lesser Kinmen, a tiny islet of Taiwan's offshore island of Kinmen, they said.
The refugee said he had come from Xinjiang, but it turned out he wasn't a Uighur, but a Chinese soldier stationed in the Chinese-held territory.

Arc de Triomphe, Beijing
What, you want to protest your own government? Where do you think you are, Paris?
Photo: Claro Cortes IV / REUTERS
A man named He Depu took part in the Democracy Wall movement in 1979, the pro-democracy movement of 1989, and helped to found the China Democracy Party in 1998 (banned in China, which guarantees "political freedom" in its constitution). Mr. He now resides in Beijing Number 2 Prison, from where he wrote a letter to the IOC president, which needed to pass through many hands before seeing the light of day.
"I have a question for Mr Rogge," wrote He Depu. "Each time you come to Beijing and see the joyous spectacles here, do you know that just 10 or so kilometres away, Beijing's political prisoners are suffering immensely for the progress of society and the elevation of human civilisation? Tens of thousands of prisoners in Beijing, each holding a bowl half-full of boiled vegetables, are training their eyes upon you. How does this make you feel?"
Mr. He should probably not expect a reply, but I expect Human Rights in China will forward it to Mr. Rogge and hopefully he'll read it and feel at least a bit sheepish.

Some portion of the Olympic tourists might be induced to feel a bit sheepish themselves, if they would add this map to their collection of Beijing sightseeing guidemaps. Based on the work of the Tiananmen Mothers, this map shows the central Beijing locations where 176 Chinese people were murdered by their government in 1989, and the hospitals where their bodies were taken.

One glance is enough to show why some pro-CCP partisans continue insisting that "practically no one died in Tiananmen Square." It should be more properly known as the "Beijing Massacre." Wai to Claudia Rosett, who was there.


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