Join our Mailing List

"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Could protests derail Beijing's Games plans?

July 28, 2008

Andy Johnson
CTV.ca News (Canada)
July 27, 2008

An exiled Tibetan holds a Tibetan national flag with others as they
participate in a Freedom Torch Relay to protest the Beijing 2008
Olympics and urge for a 'Free Tibet,' in Calcutta, India, Friday,
July 25, 2008. (AP / Bikas Das)

An exiled Tibetan holds a Tibetan national flag with others as they
participate in a Freedom Torch Relay to protest the Beijing 2008
Olympics and urge for a 'Free Tibet,' in Calcutta, India, Friday,
July 25, 2008. (AP / Bikas Das)

With the Olympics just weeks away, China is racing to clean up and
clamp down, working quietly and fervently to present the best
possible face to the world.

That means a powerful -- but mostly silent and secret -- campaign is
underway, according to one security analyst, to minimize the risk of
protests and demonstrations that could mar the event.

Former CSIS agent Michel Juneau-Katsuya told CTV.ca that human rights
could very likely go by the wayside amid the push.

"We've got to understand that for the Chinese government, their
sensitivity is much higher than the Western world and Western
governments," Juneau-Katsuya said.

"They do not want to lose face, they do not want to look like they
are ill-prepared."

As a result, he says, a mostly-invisible pre-emptive crack-down is
currently underway, and the momentum will increase leading up to the
opening ceremonies on Aug. 8.

"What will be more interesting than anything else from my point of
view is what you will not see -- which will be the tremendous number
of plainclothes intelligence officers, plainclothes police,
plainclothes military and the surveillance of all media
communications that you can think of."

In addition, intense scrutiny will be placed upon those groups within
China that pose a threat, Juneau-Katsuya says. That includes Tibetans
and their sympathizers, Falun Gong members as well as Christian and
Muslim minorities that may try to use the event to get their messages
out to the world.

Public protests will be allowed in some cases, however. The Chinese
government has announced activists can legally protest in three
designated city parks, though they'll need a permit from local police
before they do, and must follow restrictive rules.

Juneau-Katsuya said China has been following the example set by the
U.S. and other nations to use the threat of terrorism as a
justification to use sometimes harsh, pre-emptive measures.

In April, Beijing even made the broad accusation that Tibetans were
planning suicide attacks -- an allegation that was dismissed by many
as ridiculous.

'Mass collection process'

A key form of intelligence-gathering for the Chinese, Juneau-Katsuya
said, is a method known as the "mass collection process" -- a system
he said is now in full swing.

"They recruit a great, great number of people at key positions -
translators, tour guides, hotel staff, communications staff,
restaurant staff, people at key locations, you name it," Juneau-Katsuya said.

"There will be tons and tons and tons of people that have been
recruited and will be debriefed on a regular basis by Chinese
intelligence officials and police officials. Their responsibility
will be to watch."

The preventative efforts aren't limited to within China.
Juneau-Katsuya said diplomatic officials in Chinese embassies and
consulates around the world have been collecting lists of names for
months. Those lists represent people abroad who could attempt to
enter China in order to protest -- and who will be blacklisted from
entering the country.

Tsering Lama, director of Students for a Free Tibet (SFT), has faced
such measures. She was denied a visa to enter Hong Kong ahead of the
Olympic torch rally, and was then interrogated before being deported
back to Canada.

She and other members of the group had planned to hold a news
conference to coincide with the torch rally on May 2, as part of the
group's efforts to highlight human rights abuses in Tibet and their
struggle for autonomy from China.

Lama recently said she personally has no hope of getting into China
during the Games -- or possibly ever -- but the group is trying to
get the message out through different means. They are actively trying
to recruit athletes sympathetic to their cause through their Athlete
Wanted campaign.

"At many Olympics, there are athletes that inspire the world with
their courage and character. We're hoping one athlete will do that at
this Olympics," Lama said.

She wouldn't say whether the group has managed to secretly recruit
any Canadian athletes to its cause -- or what their role could be --
but it's clear that SFT hopes to make the best of the Olympic
spotlight to illuminate its message.

'Ambassadors of freedom'

The role that athletes will play is a major question mark. U.S.
President George Bush has called on American competitors to be
"ambassadors of freedom," while China retorted by urging them to
"promote friendship among the peoples of the world."

Canada's flag-bearer Adam van Koeverden, meanwhile, told Canada AM
the Games are an "opportunity for dialogue" about issues that affect
China such as Tibet's fight for independence.

While the scope and size of any pro-Tibet demonstrations are still in
question, one thing is not, said Kunga Tsering of the Canadian
Tibetan Association of Ontario. If there are protests, they will be
non-violent, he guaranteed.

"The Dalai Lama has given clear instructions there should be no
violence -- Tibetans will follow," he said.

With so many groups striving to make their voices heard

But no one can predict how successful China will be in keeping a lid
on protests since so many are willing to make a personal sacrifice to
get their message out to the world

Juneau-Katsuya said it is possible there will be incidences "left and right."

"They will probably be swiftly taken care of, and if the camera
wasn't there we might never hear of them, but that's going to be the
challenge, that's going to be the problem," he said.

"There will definitely be attempts, but their success will be
variable and their duration will be short."
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
Developed by plank