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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Tarnished torch could awaken an angry giant Tibet outcry may fuel resentment toward outsiders

April 17, 2008

National Post
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Olympic torch's world tour should have been a triumphant procession,
but it has turned into a massive anti-China protest and a love-in with
the Dalai Lama.

As a result, the world, which has shown little enthusiasm for human
rights in China in general, may now have to live with a newly awakened
and possibly aggressive and xenophobic Chinese nationalism.

China has long regarded this summer's Olympics as a grand international
coming-out party to showcase a modernized nation that has made enormous
economic strides in the past 30 years.

Instead, the Games have unleashed an avalanche of international
criticism of China on issues as diverse as Darfur, global warming,
capital punishment and human rights.

But it is the international outcry over China's handling of riots in
Tibet last month and an apparent surge in public support for Tibetan
independence overseas that have infuriated China and the Chinese.

They see the cascades of criticism as a deliberate and unfair attempt to
undermine China and its Olympic moment and are reacting with anger.

On the Internet and in the government-controlled news media China and
the Chinese are lashing out at the foreign news media and foreign
critics; they have castigated the Dalai Lama as a "jackal in a robe" and
called for a "people's war" against Tibetan separatism.

Xinhua, the Chinese government news agency, has attacked Nancy Pelosi,
the U.S. House Speaker, as "disgusting" for meeting the Dalai Lama and
backing a congressional resolution that urged China to end its crackdown
in Tibet.

Xinhua accused Ms. Pelosi of displaying "stubborn anti-China sentiment
and uneasiness about China's peaceful rise" and called her a "protector
of mobsters, arsonists and murderers."

China's official indignation is mirrored by individuals in Chinese
communities around the world.

Last weekend nearly 5,000 Chinese Canadians marched on Parliament Hill
in Ottawa to protest the chaotic demonstrations that disrupted the
Olympic torch relay in Paris, London and San Francisco.

A YouTube video, Tibet was, is and always will be part of China,
produced by a Canadian Chinese student, has attracted 2.6 million
viewers and 178,845 comments in just a few weeks.

The video bluntly declares, "To all you bandwagon jumpers who know
nothing about Chinese history and to all you bashers let me give you
some solid FACTS why Tibet was, is and always will be a part of China so
you can F*** right off trying to separate our country."

Web sites all over China are inundated with postings

by angry Chinese demanding "China should not be humiliated and the
Chinese people should not be bullied."

Most recently, the Internet has spawned calls for a Chinese boycott of
all French products and demands for a boycott on May 1 of the French
supermarket chain Carrefour, the largest foreign retailer in China.

Chinese were infuriated by news coverage of the Olympic torch relay in
Paris, during which pro-Tibetan protesters attacked a wheel-chair bound
Special Olympics athlete in a bid to extinguish the Olympic flame.

Overnight, Jin Jing, an amputee fencer from Shanghai, became a symbol of
Chinese determination for defending the torch and is described in
Chinese newspapers as "a smiling angel in a wheelchair" whose
"fearlessness was infectious and touched the heart of the entire nation."

Unlike their critics in the West, the Chinese view the Tibet crisis as a
direct challenge to their country's unity and an affront to Chinese
nationalism, which has its roots in anti-Western sentiments dating back
to the opium wars and humiliations of China in the 19th century.

China's experience is that Western interference produces internal
division and weakness.

The Chinese don't see the pro-Tibet protests as well intentioned
criticism. They regard them as a hypocritical denigration of China by a
Western culture with a history of colonialism, which condones armed
intervention in places like Iraq or Chechnya and practises waterboarding
in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, while preaching about human rights.

In a meeting last week with Kevin Rudd, the Australian Prime Minister,
Hu Jintao, the Chinese President and architect of China's current policy
in Tibet when he was party secretary there in the 1990s, said the issue
of Tibet is not human rights or cultural diversity, but whether "to
safeguard national unification or split the motherland."

The repercussions of the Olympic protests and a possible Olympic boycott
may have serious long-term consequences.

The intensity of China's counterattacks could sharpen existing ethnic
tensions in China while pushing an emerging superpower into an
xenophobic new nationalism.

In a culture where "saving face" is of paramount importance, public
humiliation is counterproductive and seldom, if ever, produces the same
results as private persuasion.

The economic changes that have made China's Olympic party possible are
already unleashing social changes that both challenge and threaten the
grip of the Chinese Communist party.

But international support for Tibet's separatist aspirations is more
likely to reinvigorate the party's hold on power, since past Chinese
dynasties have always been judged on how well they preserve the
country's unity.

While there is much to criticize in China's ugly human rights record, it
is naive and simplistic to think denigrating China and the Chinese in
the short term will accomplish anything.

A tarnished Beijing Olympics will almost certainly breed a resentful,
angry new Chinese nationalism that perceives outsiders as a threat.
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