Sunday, April 27, 2008

the government AND the people

The government. The people. The government. The people. The government AND the people. Given the behavior of the Chinese people as the Olympic torch makes its way through various foreign countries, I'm taking back my statement that it's not the Chinese people, it's the Chinese government. I hope to reinstate it some day soon.

"One World. One Dream. One China," as the slogan now goes. Given the rampant xenophobia coursing through China these days, how exactly are the Chinese going to manage to "welcome" all the foreigners who will be descending on their country for the Olympic Games?

Chinese students attack a South Korean man, in a brown jacket, who was protesting against Chinese government policy for Tibet and North Korean defectors, near the Olympic Park in Seoul. (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man, courtesy of Phayul)

Monday, April 21, 2008

"I would prefer to describe myself as an alarmed soul"

"I would prefer to describe myself as an alarmed soul." [quote from Janwillem van de Wetering, The Empty Mirror]

Years ago, I watched a television documentary about Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor. At the end of the program, he was asked if he had any advice for viewers, if there was any lesson to be learned from the Holocaust. His answer, although not in these words, was essentially, "Yes. Don't try this at home." He meant that the brutality that can happen on a huge political scale also goes on in peoples' everyday lives, between individuals, in private and outside of history. Whenever and wherever it happens it needs to stop.

There are many people in the world who are moved by the situation of the Tibetans under Chinese rule not because they sympathize with or pity them but because they empathize. Anyone who has ever encountered someone who has lost touch with reality, anyone who at some point finds themselves under that person's control, even temporarily, can recognize instantly the behaviors the Chinese government is exhibiting. Lying about what has happened; sealing off the situation from outside eyes; betraying a half-recognition that it is losing its mind by projecting that loss of control outwards and trying to control the thoughts, words, and actions of everyone around it; insisting that what's going on is no one else's business; taunting and provoking with an extraordinarily imaginative twisting of the truth, to the point where this deliberate and unending misrepresentation becomes so unbearable that the people in its power are, the government hopes, pushed into becoming violent themselves, whereupon the PRC can project its own insanity onto them and tell the world, "See, it's not us who are out of control; it's them." All of this is the behavior of a human being or a government on the verge of psychosis. And we know from history that governments can become psychotic, just as people can.

When an individual human being is recognized as crazy, most people do not blame them for their insanity. But the vital step is to acknowledge that their behaviour is insane, rather than continuing to interact and reason with them on their own terms, as if they were in touch with reality. Once that acknowledgement happens, the person can be kept from harming themselves and others, and arguments that go on about what the practical reasons for their behaviour are, what they are trying to achieve, how to get them to stop abusing other people, even whether or not that abuse is really going on, become moot. Nothing works with a psychotic person. All other people can do is recognize and protect.

The Chinese government is on the verge of insanity. The role of the rest of the world is to protect the Tibetans. We protect by witnessing. We need informed, competent journalists and individuals moving and reporting freely inside Tibet. With its adoption of unfettered capitalism (in combination with a brutal authoritarian government) and, more symbolically but just as significantly, its hosting of the Olympic Games, China has "entered the world's stage," as the cliche goes, and become part of that world. Interactions between reasonably sane people are two-way. The Chinese government wants its interaction with the rest of the world to be one-way. The IOC hopes that greater openness with China will bring greater openness within China. It will not, unless other countries step up and talk back. The Olympic Games must not be held in a place and time in which a massacre is happening. Given the eerie silence emanating from Tibet, we can only assume the worst.

China does not need Tibet. It wants Tibet. That kind of wanting cannot stop itself and is never satisfied. The Chinese government must not be allowed to dictate the terms under which everyone else discusses this "problem." We have heard the word "problem" applied to other people before. But there was no problem then, just a mass psychotic delusion, and there is no "problem of Tibet" now. There's just reality: Tibet is Tibet. It is not China.

there are tears in things

150 coffins in New York for 150 dead in Tibet, killed by the Chinese government over the past month
video by TYCNYNJ

Sunday, April 20, 2008

if this is the news from outside tibet, what must the news be like inside it?

"Nepal Authorizes Deadly Force to Stop Olympic Torch Protests"

"Nepalese soldiers and police guarding the slopes of Mount Everest are authorized to shoot to stop any protests during China's Olympic torch run to the summit, an official said Sunday."

By AP via NYTimes
April 20

one year ago

Saturday, April 19, 2008

it's not the people, it's the government

As the Western news media produces report after report on the vast consensus felt by the Chinese people in support of their government's policies on Tibet, this article from Phayul provides a glimpse of another viewpoint. It is also worth noting that those Chinese who might otherwise speak out in favor of Tibet risk arrest, imprisonment, torture and death, just as the Tibetans do.

China salaries overseas Chinese for anti-Tibetan protests
Phayul [Saturday, April 19, 2008 21:25]
By Phurbu Thinley

"The Global Human Rights Torch Relay, scheduled to pass through 37 countries, arrived in Minnesota State on April 16 on its America leg of the ongoing relay. [ . . . ] Upon reaching the University of Minnosota, Tenzin Namlha [ . . . ] was taken aback seeing an unusually large contingent of supposedly pro-China campaigners protesting side by side, apparently to disrupt the relay’s event. [ . . . ] What shocked Tenzin most was when a Chinese student carrying a pro-China banner approached him, in the midst of the event, and asked him how much he got to take part in it. [ . . . ]

" 'What happened is that there were lots of pro-Chinese, and one of them came to me and asks me how much I got,' Tenzin wrote in our usual online chat. 'He thought I might be one of them (Chinese). And then I asked him back (the same question) and he said he got 350 dollars (US) from the Chinese government to protest against us (Tibetans and human rights activists). He specifically told us that lots of students, almost all of them were paid to protest against Tibetans.'

"During his brief interaction with the outwardly frank Chinese student, Tenzin said he learned that pro-Chinese activists at the San Francisco leg of Olympic torch relay were all paid to protest against pro-Tibet campaigners. 'And it’s not just yesterday, they were paid to go to protest against us in San Francisco too. [ . . . ] So I asked him, "Why are you protesting, I mean do you have any idea about what’s going on?" [ . . . ] That Chinese guy told me he didn’t know what’s going on,' Tenzin wrote, saying he literally had to explain to his Chinese counterpart in 'detail' about what had been 'going on in Tibet' and that the Human Rights Torch Relay is 'not talking about Tibet at all.'

"According to Tenzin, on hearing the explanation, the bemused ‘Chinese guy’ later put his banner down to join Tibetans and other groups to denounce Chinese government of its human rights record. 'We were all talking about human rights in China and then he put his banner down and joined our group!' [ . . . ]

"When asked how they get money from Chinese Government, Tenzin said he was told by the Chinese stranger that one of the student’s or a group’s leaders would take money from Chinese embassy or consulates from respective locations and then pay them to individuals.

"Tenzin and other Tibetans later on the very same day went to Rochester, which is almost two hours drive from Minneapolis, to see the exiled Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to hear him speak. [ . . . ] Tenzin said he was again disturbed seeing many Chinese protesters, made up of mostly Chinese students studying at the University of Minnesota, outside the Mayo Clinic building, carrying Chinese flags and anti-Dalai Lama and anti-Tibetan banners.

"Meanwhile, Chinese Communist Party’s official mouth piece, Xinhua, which alone acts as the absolute source of Tibet related news in China, carried the Rochester incident story as: Chinese Americans protest against Dalai Lama's separatist activities. The story posted on Friday goes on to say: 'American Chinese and Chinese students across the United States have been voluntarily and spontaneously staging a series of peaceful protests against the Dalai Lama's separatist activities as he tours the country.' "

fundamental principles of olympism

Fundamental Principles of Olympism
1. Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of
body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a
way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for
universal fundamental ethical principles.
2. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man,
with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.
3. The Olympic Movement is the concerted, organised, universal and permanent action, carried
out under the supreme authority of the IOC, of all individuals and entities who are inspired by
the values of Olympism. It covers the five continents. It reaches its peak with the bringing
together of the world’s athletes at the great sports festival, the Olympic Games. Its symbol is
five interlaced rings.
4. The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising
sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual
understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. The organisation, administration
and management of sport must be controlled by independent sports organisations.
5. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion,
politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.
6. Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter and
recognition by the IOC.

[from the Olympic Charter]

Thursday, April 17, 2008

"I am the one!"

Ganden Monastery March 20 [photo from AP]

When security forces arrived at Ngok-Gyalmo monastery in Tibet on April 17 to single out and arrest any monks who had taken part in a protest the previous day, rather than turn over their fellow monks to the authorities, monk after monk began to shout "I am the one!" "I am the one!"

Nine monks were arrested and taken away. [from TIO Australia]

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

conflating the exercise of free speech with terrorism

"Nicholas Bequelin, a Xinjiang expert with Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong, said Beijing has undercut its credibility by consistently labeling criminal acts, anti-government violence and peaceful dissent as terrorism.

" 'The experience around the world since the launch of the global war on terrorism has taught the international community how easily threats of terrorism can be manipulated by authoritarian governments for their own purposes,' Bequelin said." [AP via the Christian Science Monitor April 15]

And, it should be added, by the U.S. government and the International Olympic Committee (see April 11 post below).

the north pole

Norwegian explorer Inge Solheim flies the Tibetan flag on the North Pole.
(Phayul April 15)

Friday, April 11, 2008

"China is not becoming more like the rest of the world. The rest of the world is becoming more like China."

Following the lead of the Chinese government, which has labeled the Dalai Lama a terrorist, the International Olympic Committee has now stated that the huge numbers of demonstrators in London, Paris and San Francisco protesting human rights abuses in China are "terrorists." [NYTimes April 11]

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Olympic torch

"Protesters objecting to China’s human rights record clashed with the British police on Sunday as the Olympic torch was carried through London on its way to the summer Olympic Games in Beijing. [. . . ] The police said one man was beaten off as he ran toward the flame with a fire extinguisher." [NYTimes online]