Thursday, April 24, 2008

Chinese Racism In Australia

Further to my last article, we have another example of Chinese Racism and Nationalism being used to drown dissent.

Right to speak extinguished
Christian Kerr | April 25, 2008

AT times it looked like Lygon Street or Leichhardt on the night of a big game: young blokes driving up and down; flags sticking out of the windows.

But the context was wrong. This wasn't Melbourne or Sydney's inner city. It was the wide, formal avenues of the nation's capital.

The mood was different, too. It felt like one of those soccer games where 500 years of Balkan history is played out on the pitch.

The Olympic Torch Relay run through Canberra was supposed to be a celebration. Instead, it became a clash of cultures. Australia's lost. Yesterday, Beijing suppressed freedom of expression in the heart of our democracy.

Up to 10,000 Chinese students descended on Canberra in a show of national pride, but much of that pride was chauvinism. The T-shirts made this clear. Some simply said "Beijing 2008". Others read "One China". Some were explicit: "Tibet, Taiwan, Diaoyu Islands were, are and always will be part of China."

Banners bore a message, too. "Media: truth shall set you free," one warned. Before the torch had started running, pro-Tibetan protesters had been penned in by a ring of Chinese on Federation Mall, outside Parliament House.

It was a pattern repeated through the day and reflected in arrests. Five of the seven arrested, police media said, were Chinese.

Chinese flags were draped in front of signs and used to block off cameras. Tibet supporters were struck with flagpoles. There were racial taunts. The students looked well funded and well co-ordinated. "The way the world is ... we need events like this more than ever before," Robert de Castella said. "It's really important to continue to promote the ideals of events like the Olympic Games and the Olympic spirit."

But if anything ruled the day, it was a spirit of intimidation. Tiffany Mahon, from the Canberra suburb of Calwell, said she'd come to see the relay with her husband and mother because "we love the Olympics and we wanted to see Ian Thorpe".

But as she passed dozens of young Chinese people, encircling and shouting down a protester in Commonwealth Park, she said she was shaken by the aggression and lack of respect shown to people's right to free speech.

Ms Mahon said she had seen China supporters grab and throw away a flag from a Free Tibet protester and others surround and shout at a small band from Amnesty International, who were eventually extricated by police.

"It's pretty insulting that Australians in their own country need riot police to protect them from foreign nationals," one of the Amnesty group said.

Lars Hahn, from Canberra, attracted debate and abuse by wearing a "Free China" T-shirt and calling for Chinese people to be given a vote. "I like China but it would be a much better country as a democracy, not a dictatorship," he said.

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