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article imageOp-Ed: Pro Chinese rally in Canberra news beat up, or not?

By Paul Wallis     Apr 24, 2008 in World
There were scuffles between pro Chinese and pro Tibetan demonstrators as the Olympic Torch went through Canberra yesterday. The very nationalistic Chinese response came as a surprise to Australian media.
There were scuffles between pro Chinese and pro Tibetan demonstrators as the Olympic Torch went through Canberra yesterday. The very nationalistic Chinese response came as a surprise to Australian media, although it wouldn’t have to those who know the story, or the Chinese Australian community.
The Daily Telegraph, referring to a Chinese demonstrator it calls Ugly Face:
HERE comes the ugly face of China. He can't be any more than 21-years-old. His eyes are full of hate, his jaw clenched so tight his cheeks seem ready to snap. His brain already has.
Kunchok Gyaltsen has just been claiming how he and other pro-Tibetan demonstrators have been intimidated, heckled and assaulted by pro-Chinese crowds throughout a crisp autumn Canberra morning.
Kunchok, who was born in Tibet and came to Australia three years ago, is posing for a photograph with the Tibetan flag outside Commonwealth Park. A large group of Chinese supporters spy him from a distance and quickly surround him.
The story goes on to relate allegations of assault, lack of police protection, and is generally one sided.
As a matter of fact there were plenty of police with the Torch itself, not, however, doing crowd management away from it. There were a few incidents around the Torch, nothing serious, and no attempts to put it out. The Torch is always welcome in Australia, we have fond memories of our Olympics.
We may be sympathetic to the Tibetans, but not anti-Olympic.
The alleged assaults don’t seem to have generated a lot of police interest, either. The other big Sydney newspaper didn’t even cover this. Nor were the hospitals showing a lot of evidence of casualties.
China’s very determined efforts with the Torch are part of the odd dual nature of modern China.
The extreme nationalism, as a matter of fact, isn’t that unusual. It is a matter of national pride, and the Chinese have been extremely sensitive to criticism of all kinds, particularly in relation to the Olympics.
The organized demonstration isn’t exactly unusual, either. China is a country where politics is organized.
There are quite a few PRC citizens in Australia, particularly in Canberra, and this is a more or less natural development of China’s politics.
As a matter of fact, it’s a pretty basic manifestation of how Chinese political imagery works. A lot of flags, an issue, organized groups. It was a PR exercise, as much as a demonstration.
Then there’s this bit:
One of the most dangerous moments came as thousands attempted to cross the Commonwealth bridge that spans lake Burley Griffin. Not one police officer was in sight. Wedged in by fencing, the crowd was caught in a crush at the opening of the bridge where a large contingent of flag-waving Chinese had gathered to heckle Tibetans.
The pro-Tibetan demonstrators were forced in their hundreds to spill on to the road in front of oncoming traffic and cross to the other side of the bridge. Pro-Chinese demonstrators raced across the six lanes of speeding traffic to confront them with their flags
Which is quite interesting, but there’s no footage, even on the Daily Telegraph article. There were, obviously, plenty of cameras, and a lot of police in the area, if not on site. Those roads, and that bridge across Lake Burley Griffin, aren’t the sort you can have hundreds of people crossing without attracting a lot of attention. It’d be like hundreds of people crossing a freeway, and someone would notice.
I do not know how much of this report is accurate. I’m surprised that one of the world’s biggest media outlets didn’t think to try to get some video of all this.
The ABC ran an article on the same subject. There’s a very interesting thread attached to it in which Chinese and Australian posters give their views, and in which it is once again proven that neither know much about each other’s perspective. This is a quote from one of the Chinese posters:
As a Chinese, I do think I know more about the human rights problem in China. But i believe the country already on a right track. The atmosphere is ready and the new generation youth are pushing the country forward. But I'm afraid we would like to do it in our way by ourself rather than some one else teach us. Especially some western countries like British and France which pretended our friends but in the end conquered our capital and burned down the YUANMINGYAN palace. Although it was more than 100 years ago, but that make us lost the trust of them, and sensitive about any words from them. Rebuild the trust and help each other develop,that's what we should do.
The Yuanmingyan burning was one of the greatest acts of vandalism in history, part of the European/Japanese/American retaliation for the siege of the embassies in Beijing during the Boxer Rebellion. A lot of priceless Chinese heritage was destroyed, and China was humiliated. It was the beginning of the end for the Qing Dynasty, too, largely because of that humiliation. National pride has a very serious application in China, and it does matter to the Chinese what people say about China.
You’ll notice that a modern Chinese citizen has this idea firmly in mind, when referring to the West. It’s part of their history, and Chinese human rights were never a part of Western foreign policy until 1949, when it was politically expedient. The horrors of the Cultural Revolution were dismissed as "communism" rather than human rights abuse.
Chiang Kai Shek, the West’s great “ally” and total fraud, was a Chinese Mussolini, to whom the idea of Chinese human rights was never even a consideration. Millions of Chinese died, probably more than in Russia during the Second World War, and nobody batted an eyelid.
For the West to be talking about Tibetan human rights, after centuries of ignoring Chinese human rights, is likely to get on Chinese nerves.
If we're ever expecting to get any sort of working dialog going with the Chinese, we're going to have to learn to see the Chinese context as well as our own.
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