The heavy boot of Chinese oppression continues to stomp on free enterprise. A few days ago, I found a story on the BBC site that highlights the insidious creep of the all-encompassing influence of the party faithful in China:
Isn’t that ironic? In a world where just about every item we find on sale in the west has that label “Made in China”, it now appears that even the flags used to denounce the actions of the Chinese government are ‘made IN China’.
Police in southern China have discovered a factory manufacturing Free Tibet flags, media reports say.
The factory in Guangdong had been completing overseas orders for the flag of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
Workers said they thought they were just making colourful flags and did not realise their meaning.
But then some of them saw TV images of protesters holding the emblem and they alerted the authorities, according to Hong Kong’s Ming Pao newspaper.
The factory owner reportedly told police the emblems had been ordered from outside China, and he did not know that they stood for an independent Tibet.
Workers who had grown suspicious checked the meaning of the flag by going online.
Thousands of flags had already been packed for shipping.
Police believe that some may already have been sent overseas, and could appear in Hong Kong during the Olympic torch relay there this week. [ BBC ]
As the torch relay continues its way around the globe, I think it is a great irony that many of the Free Tibet flags waving in protest of China’s brutal genocide of the Tibetans, were made in China.
The torch relay: At just about every stop along the way, police and military (and let’s not forget the Chinese ‘men in blue)have been brought out in large numbers to protect the torch. Riiiiiiiiight.
That is the official route, but as we all know, on every stop along the way, the route has been changed, in some cases drastically. In London, Paris, San Fransisco, South Korea, New Delhi..etc etc.. the torch relay has been seen by police and militia more than the regular folks.
I also read that at one point, the torch spent an overnight in a hotel. That’s the Olympic spirit! As the citizens of each relay stop come out to witness this historic passing of the torch, many are denied the opportunity as the organisers, re-route the original plan. Sad, isn’t it?
In Pakistan, I saw a picture of the preparations being made for the torch arrival. To welcome this international symbol of ‘harmony and co-operation, the military – armed with machine guns – was out in full force. Meanwhile, in what can only be described as something out of parallel universes, the media from the west and the Chinese media, present two very different stories of the torch’s progress.
For the San Fransisco leg, there were these two views:
First, the New York Times:
The New York Times described the torch’s progress around the city as an “elaborate game of hide-and-seek… as city officials secretly rerouted the planned torch relay, swarmed its runners with blankets of security and then whisked the torch to the airport in a heavily guarded motorcade”.
And the San Fransisco Chronicle:
Under the headline: “No torch, no problem – they came to protest”, the paper painted a picture of a colourful array of protesters, all with different axes to grind, both pro and anti-China.
The Chinese media had this to say:
Under headlines including “Olympic torch relay concludes in San Francisco without major incidents” and “Chinese ambassador: Olympic torch relay in San Francisco ‘successful'”, state-run news agency Xinhua generally painted a positive picture of the relay.
The protests were mentioned in Xinhua’s main news story, where it reported: “At one point, Tibetan separatists tried to disrupt the torch relay. They tried to grab the torch, but were pushed back by police escorting the torch relay.”
Further down, the Xinhua article states: “Many San Francisco citizens expressed dismay at attempts to link the Olympic Games with politics.” [ BBC ]
Meanwhile, news out of Tibet is still almost impossible to find. When mainstream media is shut out of any country or community, alarm bells should ring. In Tibet, without the glare of the international media spotlight, monks are still being rounded up, or committing suicide (I read a story of 2 monks doing so), and the military presence rolls right over any dissent. You won’t have read it in the mainstream media, but you did read it here at NewsBlaze: the arrest of a wellknown artist/writer/blogger in Tibet. Usually, when news is shut down, the bloggers keep the information flowing. This time, it seems the Chinese have managed to intimidate even the bloggers in Tibet, since I could not find any current blog posts.
However, this is not to say that here in the west, efforts are not being made to keep the spotlight on China’s treatment of Tibet.
France recently gave the Dalai Lama honorary citizenship of that country, and yes, pro-Chinese bloggers managed to get their displeasure out into the ether. On pro-Chinese sites, boycotts have been called against France and French goods. I don’t recall China calling for boycotts of Canadian ‘stuff’ when Canada gave the Dalai Lama honorary citizenship of Canada. Nor do I remember a call for a boycott of American goods when President Bush hosted the Dalai Lama in the US. However, this business of boycotting certainly has merit. I have already gone on record as saying I think we should boycott not only the torch relay, but the Olympics as well. Students for a Free Tibet has another idea, which also will add weight to expressing outrage at what China is doing in Tibet.
They give instructions on how you can directly tell Coca Cola what you think of their sponsorship of the torch relay:
Coca-Cola, one of the most powerful corporations in the world, is an official sponsor of China’s torch relay. Please join Tibetans and supporters worldwide in calling on Coke’s executives to use their influence to pressure the International Olympic Committee to withdraw Tibet from the torch relay route. Click here to take action now.
Tibetans and supporters protested at Coke’s shareholders meeting, calling on the company to do the right thing. Click here to read SFT’s press release. [ www.studentsforafreetibet.org ]
And that got me thinking. Yes, we can boycott the Olympics, but we can also do more, much more. There are many corporate sponsors of both the torch relay AND the Olympics themselves. We may not be able to reach the Chinese people directly to express our views, but I am sure those mega corporations would feel the pinch if we boycotted their products.
Who are these corporate sponsors? Just a few:
The 12 highest-level corporate benefactors of the Beijing Games, known as the TOP sponsors (“The Olympic Partner”), are: Atos Origin, Coca-Cola, General Electric (GE), Manulife (parent company of John Hancock), Johnson & Johnson, Kodak, Lenovo, McDonald’s, Omega (Swatch Group), Panasonic (Matsushita), Samsung, and Visa.
GE is in an especially prominent position as a TOP Sponsor and the parent company of NBC, which is the US broadcaster of the Games. According to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC’s) most recent quadrennial review, corporate sponsorships and broadcast fees accounted for 87 percent of IOC revenue from 2001-2004, and the TOP sponsors have paid at least $866 million total for the 2005-2008 period. Human Rights Watch, has a few interesting things to say about corporate responsibility.
The truth is that China probably doesn’t concern itself with what the rest of the world thinks of them. BUT, I can bet that those corporations who trade in the west, would care if we all boycotted their products. Even as we stumble towards Beijing, money talks! We can make a difference!