This past month, the world has been yelling and demonstrating about the human rights violations of Tibetans by Chinese goons. (Ooops, I mean the Chinese military, of course!) As the Olympic torch – that universal symbol of unity and co-operation – has travelled around, demonstrations have been the norm. In Greece, London, Paris, San Francisco, etc, the torch relay has been disrupted by demonstrators voicing their concerns about the murder of innocent Tibetans in the capital city of Tibet.
In San Francisco, the torch was actually sent on a route that was not in the original plans, leaving hundreds of spectators waiting in vain for the torch to pass them by. Pass them by it did but not in the way the throngs had hoped:
In San Francisco, a planned waterfront closing ceremony in Justin Herman Plaza was moved because of security fears.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom told Reuters news agency: “We assessed the situation and felt that we could not secure the torch and protect the protesters and supporters to the degree that we wished.”
Instead, a muted closing event took place on a motorway fly-over well away from the planned location, says the BBC’s David Willis in San Francisco. [ BBC ]
And of course, being the BBC, they had to have ‘balance’, and also went with this:
Everywhere the torch has been thus far, demonstrators have had their ‘say’; just as the Chinese have managed to get their own supporters out in droves. And the Chinese ‘men in blue’, as I call them, have been escorting the torch. And there is an interesting article on those ‘men in blue.’
They wear bright blue tracksuits and Beijing Olympic organizers call them “flame attendants.” But a military bearing hints at their true pedigree: paramilitary police sent by Beijing to guard the Olympic flame during its journey around the world.
Torchbearers have criticized the security detail for aggressive behaviour, and a top London Olympics official simply called them “thugs.”
“They were barking orders at me, like ‘Run! Stop! This! That!’ and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, who are these people?”‘ former television host Konnie Huq told British Broadcasting Corp. radio about her encounter with the men in blue during London’s leg of the relay Sunday.
Members were picked from special police units of the People’s Armed Police, China’s internal security force. The requirements for the job: to be “tall, handsome, mighty, in exceptional physical condition similar to that of professional athletes,” the state-run China News Service said.
Special police units are the top tier of the paramilitary corps, chosen for skills in martial arts, marksmanship and hand-to-hand combat, according to sinodefence.com, a British-based website specializing in Chinese military affairs.
At least one torchbearer said she clashed with the squad, and others have criticized their heavy-handed tactics.
Chinese paramilitary team protects Olympic flame – AP
Meanwhile, world leaders huff and puff – mouth platitudes – about whether they will call for a boycott of the Olympics. Some have gone on the record as saying they will not attend the opening ceremonies. Gee, that’s a pretty definitive statement abhorring the thugs murdering innocents in Tibet, isn’t it?
As all this is going on, has anyone else noticed how the media is not reporting what is still going on INSIDE Tibet? For the purpose of this piece, I tried to find current data, stories on the violence within Tibet. Just because the spotlight is following the torch, I have no illusions that the violent crackdown in Tibet has stopped. Not a chance. Because the media is following the (mostly) stage-managed torch procession, just means, to me anyways, that the Chinese can continue murdering the innocent Tibetans with no fear of reprisals from the media spotlight. But I found at least one blogger who is still posting, and everyone should keep an eye on this one.
And yes, the athletes have been caught in the middle. It seems that athletes around the world have been ‘reminded’ that the Olympics is about SPORTS and not politics, and told to refrain from making political statements. I read somewhere that the British team has had to sign statements saying they will not speak out against the human rights issues while in China. Well, really? Historically, athletes have been very creative in expressing their political points of view at the Olympics. These Olympics look to be no different. Last week I found a piece on the BBC about a bracelet that Olympians are being encouraged to wear. Today, I cannot find that article, but never fear, I found information somewhere else. Perish the thought that the BBC might upset the Chinese bureaucrats.
Quote of the week
The Montreal Gazette
Published: Sunday, March 30 2008
“We can no longer as athletes simply ignore what happens before the Olympic Games when human rights are systematically violated.”
Stefan Pfannmoller, a former German Olympic athlete, calling on athletes at the Beijing Olympics to wear a special bracelet to protest human rights violations by China in Tibet. [ The Montreal Gazette ]
There is a really interesting article about the pros and cons of a total boycott of the Olympics on a German site. It is in English and well worth the time. Go here: [ The Local, Germany ]
Athletes having to decide where they stand on political/human rights issues is not a new idea. From the 1936 Olympics in the heyday of Nazism, to 1980 when Olympics were boycotted by some in response to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, sports and politics HAVE been joined. There are many examples, which in themselves would make a book. There is no escaping this.
Meanwhile, the Chinese bureaucrats continue bleating that they are being misrepresented in the western media, blah blah blah.
From London comes this:
In a column with a huge header which reads: “Chinese Ambassador attacks western media” … this is an interesting article, if only for how it highlights the Chinese efforts to massage their message. [ Telegraph ]
The Chinese ambassador to London has denounced “violent” British demonstrators who attacked the Olympic torch relay – and hit out at the western media for “demonising” China….
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Fu Ying claims that Chinese Olympic athletes were so shocked by the protests at the relay in London that they questioned whether Britain could really have been the land that produced Shakespeare and Dickens.
In her article, Madam Fu says: “Many who had romantic views about the West are very disappointed at the media’s attempt to demonise China. We all know demonisation feeds a counter reaction.
“Many complain about China not allowing enough access to the media. In China, the view is that the Western media needs to make an effort to earn respect.”
The unprecedented attack comes after international concern about the crackdown in Tibet, with Tibetan exile groups saying Chinese security forces killed dozens of protesters during violent clashes.
Protests during the Olympic torch relay by activists critical of China’s actions have taken place all over the world ahead of the Beijing Games in August.
Voicing her own disappointment that the relay in London last weekend was marred by demonstrations, Madam Fu said: “On the bus to the airport, I was with some young girls from the Beijing team, including an Olympic Gold Medalist Miss Qiao. They were convinced that the people here were against them. One girl remarked she couldn’t believe this land nourished Shakespeare and Dickens. Another asked: where is the ‘gentlemenship’?” [end quote]
My response to that, and many more like it where the Chinese masters are trying to shape world view of their brutality? Oh, puleeeeeze. Quite apart from erroneously calling on Shakespeare and Dickens to make a point (and surely she should know that both those writers were champions of human rights in their time – but that’s a piece by me on another day,) she has some gall to quote one of the “young girls” asking “where is the gentlemanship?”
Good question, and I would answer NOT in Tibet. I would also suggest that the global community can flap their jaws, express dismay all they like at the disgusting big boot pummeling (ungentlemanly behaviour?) of Tibetans into the ground. We won’t even go to Darfur right here – five years of genocide and we are still ‘discussing’, expressing our ‘outrage’. We all know how well that works.
Talk is cheap, and so it seems is the price of a human life in parts of the world where dissent means death. Wearing a bracelet is certainly an expression of concern by which the athletes can give their point of view at the Olympics. But it is not enough, not nearly enough.
Is there anybody out there who seriously thinks that the Chinese will sit down and talk to the spiritual leader they have called “evil,” and who THEY are trying to demonise in international opinion? Give me a break. Really, why should they? They have – by their actions – shown the world what they think of any worldwide ‘interference’ in their ‘domestic’ affairs. Yes, yes I agree, Tibet is NOT China’s domestic affairs.
I say forget opening ceremonies boycotts, forget wearing the rubber bracelets, forget demonstrating the torch relay. Talk is cheap, and sometimes you have to just quit talking and DO something. I suggest we ALL boycott not only anything to do with the Olympics in Beijing (stay home!) but also all Chinese products. Yes, I know that will take quite the effort since Chinese goods pervade every aspect of our lives. BUT it can be done, and it should. (Remember how we all instantly stopped buying dog food made in China when it was proved the tainted food was related to China? Toys that harm our children?) Yes, I know very well how closely connected the Chinese economy is to the north American economy. But, if we really mean to put an end to the murder of innocents abroad, time to stop talking, and act in a way that the Chinese government “gets.” Historically, China has proved that it can afford to wait out any foreign condemnation of their brutality.
As more Tibetans are no doubt being murdered, away from the media spotlight, the world community is given a golden opportunity. NOW is the time to say we will no longer hypocritically support despots with our money, as we mouth the protests. It is all too safe for us to march in protest as we exercise our freedoms enshrined in our countries. Now is the perfect time to declare with our money that we will not tolerate ANY country murdering innocents. I believe we have the power. It is now almost beyond time to put up or shut up.