Thursday, March 26, 2009
SEEKING TRUTH FROM FACTS
hinese officials this week have shown that it is actually possible for them to tell the truth, under certain narrowly specific circumstances.
When the news broke that the South African government had dis-invited the Dalai Lama to a Nobel-sponsored peace conference in Johannesburg, governmental spokesmen took great pains to insist that their snub of the great man of peace and non-violent freedom struggle was entirely their own, with no influence from a foreign, authoritarian regime. South Africa's Foreign Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa insisted that China had not exerted any pressure on the government.
"As far as the SA government is concerned, no invitation was extended to the Dalai Lama to visit South Africa," Mamoepa said.First of all, the logic here is non-existent. Three South African Nobel peace laureates had issued the invitations to a number of people, including the Dalai Lama, on behalf of former president F. W. De Klerk's foundation. Mamoepa maintains that because the SA government had not invited him, "the question of visas does not exist." Are people only eligible for South African visitor visas if the government invites them? That must be hell for the tourist and convention industry. Not credible.
"So therefore the question of the visas doesn’t exist. This is an independent, sovereign decision. I am not aware of any approach by the Chinese."
Local journalists went to find Dai Bing, a ministerial counsellor at the Chinese embassy in Pretoria. In this instance, a Chinese official was more truthful than the officials of a democratically elected government in a free country which had gained its liberal democracy with the help of principled worldwide support for their freedom struggle, quite some time ago.
Dai Bing, ministerial counsellor at the Chinese embassy in Pretoria, said his government had appealed to the South African government not to allow the Dalai Lama into the country, warning that if it did so, it would harm bilateral relations.So. South Africa was threatened with dire consequences, should it be so impertinent as to receive the man who is the living symbol of his people's legitimate freedom struggle while in exile — in much the same way Nelson Mandela was remembered and loved during all those years in prison at Robben Island.
Threat issued, obedience secured. It's almost a replay of His Holiness' first visit to South Africa ten years ago, after he was welcomed to participate in the World Parliament of Religions conference in 1999. He met with then president Thabo Mbeki at the conference.
However, a row broke out after Mbeki agreed to see the Dalai Lama again separately. The Chinese government protested and Mbeki cancelled the meeting.There's nothing like showing a little principled spine to encourage one's countrymen to feel national pride. Reports I've seen in the past few days indicate that South African citizens are generally ashamed of their leaders' obsequious China-pandering. Opposition parties forcefully denounced it, and most of the Nobel laureates who extended the original invitation have come down on the same side.
Former president De Klerk and Archbishop Tutu said they would boycott the event unless the Dalai Lama attended, and the Nobel Committee withdrew its sponsorship on the same basis. Although I had expected Mr. Nelson Mandela to have felt obliged to stand with his comrades, or at the very least make a clear statement on the issue, he has thus far been completely silent. I could perhaps have become confused as to whom Mr. Nelson Mandela's comrades actually are. But hopefully he will say something soon.
However, at least his grandson has put the Mandela name on the right side of history. Mandla Mandela had chaired the planning committee which was organising the event.
"For me personally and given the role my grandfather played in founding our democracy this rejection by the government to not issue a visa is really tainting our own efforts at democracy," he said.Thank you, Mr. Mandla Mandela. Even though Chinese leaders and officials have no need to listen to you, or to Messrs. Tutu and De Klerk, it's important that it be said in any case. China of course expressed great glee in the success of their bully tactics, which often don't work as well as they did this time.
"It's a sad day for South Africa, it's a sad day for Africa. We are a nation which is striving to be a leader the in African continent. I don't think as a sovereign independent country we need to succumb to international pressure." South Africa has one of the most liberal constitutions in the world, he pointed out. "We have the right to free movement and freedom of speech," he said, adding that the visa refusal was "really a warning where are we heading in the future".
Such open criticism of the ANC from within the Mandela family is extremely rare.
The accidental PRC truthfulness from Mr. Dai Bing was short-lived however. A few days ago I wondered here whether the Chinese response to the video proofs of Chinese atrocities against Tibetans, released over the weekend, would be one of "stop hurting our feelings!" In fact, their answer almost reached my level of facetiousness — they just declared the whole thing a fakery. And then they blocked YouTube from the entire country, presumably so that citizens wouldn't watch any staged videos.
There is no doubt that the latest YouTube closure in China is due to the atrocity videos' release. The clips became generally available on Sunday, and by Monday the website was becoming difficult to access. By Tuesday, it was impossible. (One small upside to this; I won't need to deal with angry fenqing commenting on my videos there in the interim.)
A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry helpfully reminded reporters that 'we are not afraid,' though not quite channelling Aung San Suu Kyi.
"Many people have a false impression that the Chinese government fears the internet. In fact it is just the opposite."Hmm, I wonder how these "many people" could have ever arrived at such a "false impression" in the first place. Perhaps it's because you clearly demonstrate your fear of open information at every available opportunity.
The charge that this video (actually it's three videos) is faked, is simply ludicrous and worthy of nothing more than ridicule. Take a look at the "Under Arrest" clip on the right sidebar if you haven't, or watch it in larger format here. Anyone trying to pass off the assertion that these are actors performing for the camera, needs to have his head (and ears) examined. No, scratch that — nobody is that stupid. They are just bad liars, pure and simple.
And better yet (again, very strong content warning) watch this one in large format, the un-redacted version. The extremely gruesome bits toward the end, with the sickening close-ups of doctors carving rotten flesh from Tendar's body after his torture wounds had been covered in cellophane for months? China says that's been faked, too. They really do think you are stupid enough to swallow such a transparently ridiculous line (by "you" I mean each and every reader who sees this — you are their propaganda target).
I have read this morning that YouTube has removed the offending videos from its servers, but the two links above will take you to them on blip.tv, which I'm confident will not take them down. Blip videos are clearer than YouTubes anyway. The YouTube I embedded on Sunday appears to be still available, but I'll switch it to the blip.tv version if that becomes necessary. In this day and age, one doesn't get to eliminate evidence that one's totalitarian regime happens to find inconvenient.
Maintaining a brutal colonial empire is not as easy as it was in Napoleon's time, Mr. Wen. And Mr. Hu, as a former commissar of Tibet, that goes double for you.