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China-Tibet-Olympics: Medals for highest-pitched rhetoric?

April 20, 2008

San Francisco Chronicle
April 19, 2008

The way the debate about the forthcoming Olympic Games in China has been
going, maybe the International Olympic Committee's poobahs should start
thinking about awarding medals for the highest-pitched rhetoric, the
most audacious public-relations efforts, the most creative
protest-sign-making or the most over-the-top propaganda pronouncements.
Consider these developments:
April 2, 2008: Some anti-China, pro-Tibet protesters outside the
European Commission headquarters in Brussels carried signs whose
graphics made creative use of the Olympic rings logo

» File under "Be Careful What You Wish For": In reaction to criticism
from overseas of its human-rights record, especially with regard to
Tibet, the communist government of China and the country's
state-controlled news media have appealed to a spirit of nationalism,
not so subtly suggesting that Chinese national pride has been wounded by
the comments of foreign detractors.

Now, however, Reuters reports, "Chinese official media have sought to
temper nationalist calls for boycotts of foreign businesses accused of
supporting Tibetan independence, urging angry citizens to focus on
economic development. Chinese Internet sites have been awash with calls
to stop buying French-made goods and to stop shopping at Carrefour
stores [French-owned supermarkets] after Tibet protesters in Paris
[recently] disrupted the Beijing Olympics torch relay." In "a sign that
the Chinese government may want to cool public anger over Tibet and the
Olympics protests, the official Xinhua [news] agency [has] called for
'patriotic zeal to concentrate on development.'" The news service,
appealing to its Chinese audience, stated: "Patriotic zeal must enter
onto a rational track and must be transformed into concrete actions to
do one's own work well....Thirty years of reform and opening up have
created a China miracle....Our tasks in accelerating domestic
development are extremely heavy....We must convert full-hearted
patriotic zeal into patriotic action."

» File under "Two Can Play at That Game": Boycotts, nos amis? A separate
Reuters report notes that two of China's hottest contemporary artists,
Wang Guangyi and Lu Hao, both of whom have won important, price-boosting
praise for their work from foreign art critics, have decided to withdraw
their creations from an exhibition that is set to open in France in June
in "the latest display of anger at the country after protesters in Paris
disrupted Beijing's Olympic torch relay." Wang noted that the calls some
French citizens had made for their country to boycott the Beijing
Olympics that are scheduled to begin in early August "made me feel very
annoyed, so we thought that...attending the exhibition would be unhappy
and decided not to go." Reuters reports that both Wang and Lu "stressed
that their decision [to pull out of the forthcoming art exhibition] was
personal, with Wang adding he had great respect for French culture and
would not rule out future cooperation" with art presenters in France.

» File under "Endurance Test": In India, the Economic Times reports
that, with "international criticism rising over the Tibetan issue, and
world leaders announcing plans to boycott the opening ceremony of the
Beijing Olympics, China has stepped up its propaganda machine. Beijing
has turned to 'history' to counter the growing chorus of support for
Tibetans." Now, the newspaper notes, China's embassy in India "has been
busy sending out a DVD entitled 'Tibet in the Past,' a documentary
produced by the Central Newsreel and Documentary Film Studio of China.
The blurb on [its] cover says that the DVD contains a series of
documentaries shot before 1960 [that run some] 900 minutes." The DVD's
packaging announces that the material it contains "recreates social
conditions in Tibet and [the] lives of ordinary Tibetans before 1959."
The Economic Times reports: "The DVD covers a period of China's history
that culminates in the flight of the Dalai Lama to India in 1959 after
the failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. China has maintained
that the 1959 uprising was the work of aristocrats who wanted to restore
oppression of the Tibetan masses who were freed by the Chinese."
June 20, 2007: Computer users at an Internet café in northern China; in
the People's Republic, the government still prohibits Internet surfers'
access to politically sensitive topics such as Tibet and the 1989
Tiananmen Square protests

» File under "Gold Medal for Bombast"(?): Rob Anders, a member of
Canada's national parliament representing his country's Conservative
Party, is planning to travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan, today to meet the
Dalai Lama. In recent days, the exiled, Tibetan-Buddhist spiritual
leader and head of the Tibetan government in exile has been on a tour of
the U.S.

Representing a Calgary constituency, Anders, notes Canada's Canwest News
Service, "is an outspoken critic of China and a member of the
Parliamentary Friends of Tibet, an all-party group formed in 1990 by
members of Parliament and senators concerned about the political
situation in Tibet." Yesterday, Canwest reports, Anders said: "I want to
go and talk to the Dalai Lama...Partly, by doing so, I think we're
highlighting the issue, but, as well, I want to ask him about the
cultural genocide that is going on there." The news agency notes that
Anders "compared this year's Beijing Olympics to the 1936 Games held in
Berlin, when Germany was under Nazi rule, arguing that China is the
wrong choice to host the Games." Anders said: "I absolutely, 100% think
it compares to the Berlin Olympics in 1936....You've got Falun Gong
practitioners, which [sic] are not allowed to participate in the
Olympics. Adolf Hitler had issues with Jews being able to participate in
the Olympics in 1936."

In his comments yesterday, Anders, who several years ago "crashed a
Chinese New Year's event on Parliament Hill [, in Ottawa,] wearing a
'Free Tibet' T-shirt," also referred to China as "the worst human-rights
violator in the world right now," adding: "I think their record in terms
of deaths and atrocities far overshadows those in the Second World War.
If you look at the people who were killed during the Great Leap Forward
and the Cultural Revolution under Mao, it makes the deaths on the
Russian front in the Second World War look small in comparison." Canwest
points out that Anders "stopped short...of calling for an outright
boycott of the Olympics, but he did say no Canadian politician should
attend the Games, nor should any Canadian athletes be used as
'propaganda tools.'" The conservative pol stated: "I'm sensitive to the
fact that we've had [sic] Canadian athletes...who have trained for
years....They're good athletes; they want to have the opportunity to
compete. But I don't want to see them used as a propaganda tool for the
Chinese communists." (Canwest News Service; see also CBC News)

Posted By: Edward M. Gomez (Email) | April 18 2008 at 05:48 AM
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