Thursday, April 24, 2008

Chinese Racism Abroad

My son is studying for his PhD in Canberra. One interesting little tidbit he relayed to me is that it is widely known in amongst the national security services of the various organs of the Australian government that the various Chinese Student Associations (CSA's) are controlled by the Chinese equivalent of the Secret Police or Secret Service to actively monitor the activities of their citizens studying abroad.

In this case it seems to have gone a little further with the CSA's organizing huge rallies (20,000 Chinese student bused into Canberra, the capital of Australia, pop 300,000) to effectively drown out Tibetan protesters and also to monitor Tibetans (for what purposes one can only imagine).

Whilst I firmly support free speech and the right to protest, one cannot help but think that this crosses the line between the right to protest and agitation by a foreign government in another country. That said, I'm fairly certain that many of the Chinese students attending the rally would have been there out of legitimate nationalistic feelings that Han Chinese seem to associate with them own 'race'.

Death to racism and intimidation in all it's forms!

Chinese students bully torch crowds
Paul Maley | April 25, 2008

GANGS of Chinese students have marred the Australian leg of the Olympic torch relay, assaulting, intimidating and harassing vastly outnumbered pro-Tibetan activists as the torch was carried through Canberra's streets.

Last night, the ACT Government proclaimed the event an "outstanding success" after managing to avoid the violence that has marked the flame's passage through Europe and the US.

"This is the 14th stop of the Beijing Olympic torch relay ... and it's the first successful relay that's been run," ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said.

While the majority of the crowd was peaceful, there was sporadic violence during yesterday's 16km run. Seven people were arrested - five pro-China supporters and two pro-Tibetans. Early in the relay, one man jumped a barrier and sat cross-legged in the torch's path, only to be quickly bundled away by police.

And in what was described as an example of poor communication between Australian authorities and paramilitary flame attendants, members of the police security detail were forced to push aside Chinese security guards early in the run after they attempted to run inside the phalanx of Australian Federal Police officers surrounding the flame.

While the torch carriers were allowed to travel unmolested through the streets, dozens of Tibetan activists were assaulted or intimidated by highly organised groups of Chinese students who flocked from around the country to support the relay.

In one incident witnessed by The Australian, brothers John and Nick Price were forced to jump a barricade to escape a gang of young Chinese men who attacked them after they attempted to walk down Anzac Parade with a Free Tibet banner.

"We were being pushed and spat on, abused. We were kicked in the back and punched. We were hit with flagpoles. They pushed me to the ground," John Price said.

The Chinese members of the crowds became angry when a plane skywriting the words "free Tibet", bankrolled by Greens senator Bob Brown, crossed the sky.

The relay began at 8.50am when 2007 Young Australian of the Year Tania Major carried the flame to a rowing scull that took it across Lake Burley Griffin.

It was greeted by thousands of Chinese supporters waving flags, chanting slogans and singing the Chinese national anthem. It then proceeded back past Parliament House and the War Memorial, before travelling down Canberra's main thoroughfare where there were numerous skirmishes.

The Chinese contingent, estimated by police to be between 7500 and 10,000, appeared well organised, arriving before dawn in a convoy of buses mostly from Sydney and Melbourne.

Chinese marshals mustered the students via two-way radio. By contrast, pro-Tibetan groups numbered about 2000, police said. At least 550 police were called on to control the crowd of 20,000.

Referring to reports the Chinese embassy had been involved in organising the students, Mr Stanhope said he was aware of "contact" between the embassy and some of the Chinese groups.

While the torch's journey was unmolested, the flame was twice extinguished. The torch went out briefly when it arrived on the northern side of Lake Burley Griffin and then most spectacularly at the end of the relay the Olympic cauldron went out, having been lit by swimming great Ian Thorpe only moments earlier. Last night, the Olympic flame left Canberra for the next leg of its journey in Nagano, Japan.


Anonymous said...

So many Chinese students were so worked up last year with the Olympic torch relay. I felt ashamed of them. I am from China originally. I am the 3rd generation Mainland Chinese under the Communist regime. The Communist regime was afraid that their dynasty would cease to exist with my generation (those born after 1960's). Little did they know that the 4th generation Mainlanders would turn out to be such devotees to their dictatorship. I am truly baffled at the stupidity of fellow Chinese from Mainland. What do you think is at work here?

AsianRacism said...

A number of factors are at play. Fist of all, the Han Chinese, like most other colonialy powerful ethnic groups feel the 'loss' (or potential loss) of any area of the 'motherland' as a national shame.

One only has to look at the behaviour of the Russian's towards the Baltic States, the Malaysian's towards the indigenous peoples of the Malaya peninsular, the Japanese towards the Ainu, the treatment of minorities within south Africa by the Zulu or how the British treated the Scots and Irish to see similar examples of how a proud nation feels acutely and collectively 'insulted' when areas break free from the yoke of colonial power, or if other countries criticise their homelands treatment of the minorities in that region.

So that is one level. Another level is cultural arrogance - there is an assumption that the western world is automatically anti-chinese, doesn't understand chinese culture and history etc etc and hence any critique is an 'attack' on the Chinese themselves as individuals. You see the same reaction from American's on occasion, the difference is that American's don't promote the hacking of film-festival websites in another country that is showing an anti-USA film.

That is where there is still some immaturity around China as a nation, ancient as they are, they still can't differing views and opinions, and take rather strident steps to stiffle dissent (as the post above outlines in dramatic fashion) which only reinforces the very negative perceptions the Chinese communist party wants to stiffle.

I wouldn't put it down to stupidity from your fellow mainlanders, but rather lack of exposure to different ways of thinking and lack of cultural sensitivity.

Most Chinese have been feed one (edited) version of their history. They are exposed to one culture, and have travelled rarely. Before embarking overseas they are often told of the horrors of anti-Chinese racism that await them, so is it really any surprise that they find it whenever they want abroad? (often sadly, for the right reasons: it exists to often in this world)

So its not stupidity, but rather ignorance and immaturity. I saw the same thing in many Australian's in Bali - anything that isn't like home is "wrong". Likewise when working with Singaporeans, any management technique or process that is 'foreign' is automatically rejected. Its simply ignorance of the possibility that others may have valuable input.

So from that perspective, whilst I don't blame the Chinese students themselves for wanting to protest, I can't help but wonder if more of them had just said "no" to the organisers wanting to bus them to Canberra, would we be having this discussion? that then raises the final piece in the jigsaw - how do you say NO to someone you know (or suspect) has ties with the intelligence service of your home country? how do you do that when there are people sent to jail every week in your homeland for 'non patriotic' activities?

This is where the power of one brave individual who says "NO" can be infectious and spread rapidly - ala Berlin Wall, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Georgia, Taiwan etc - that is yet to happen and until it does, China will continue to spiral downwards in the worlds eyes as it is labelled as repressive society, then reacts to the criticism by trying to silence dissent, thus creating more criticism and so on and so forth. Sad sate of affairs, and one that can only be solved once their is a change of government in China.