China calls for a people's army to march on Canberra to defend torch
John Garnaut and Maya Li in Beijing
April 16, 2008
THOUSANDS of Chinese Australians are being asked to rally and defend the Olympic torch from Tibetan "splittists", "scum" and "running dogs" when it arrives in Canberra next week.
The mass campaign is being organised by community leaders in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, while the Chinese embassy is also said to be actively supporting a peaceful show of strength.
One Canberra-based student organiser, Zhang Rongan, said he expected more than 10,000 patriotic Chinese to go to the capital when the torch arrives on April 24. He was arranging "strong men" to protect other torch defenders against violent attacks from pro-Tibet or Falun Gong forces, he said, adding there would be one nurse or doctor on site for every 100 protesters.
Chinese nationals and many ethnic Chinese worldwide have been angered by television news footage of pro-Tibetan protesters in London and Paris "attacking" the Olympic torch, which they see as the ultimate symbol of China's re-emergence in the world.
As the torch has travelled the world, cities along its route have cut its run through their streets and strengthened security to avoid further clashes. Pakistan, which will host the first leg of its Asia relay today, has changed the venue for the torch run, holding it in a stadium closed to the public. India has trimmed the route by two-thirds and Japan has cancelled a public celebration linked to the relay later this month in the city of Nagano because of security concerns.
Perceptions that the West is pro-Tibet and anti-China have generated a furious outpouring of ethnic Chinese patriotism, fuelled by private bloggers and the state propaganda machine.
But the Canberra campaign is unlikely to improve Western views of China because many protest leaders are borrowing the militaristic anti-Tibet and anti-Western rhetoric that is bubbling out of the mainland.
One letter widely circulated among Chinese Australians said "the China forces" in Canberra are weak and need reinforcement because the city is a "separatist base" for Falun Gong, pro-Tibet, pro-Uighur (an ethnic minority group in China's north-west) and other "splittists". It said that no Chinese can tolerate being humiliated by "scum of the Chinese nation" and "running dogs".
"Whether you carry a Chinese passport or are an Australian citizen, I believe that each and every one of you, the sons and daughters of China, are as one with us in loyalty and love for the motherland!" the letter said, adding registration details for free bus rides from Sydney and Melbourne.
This and other calls to protest are being promoted through Chinese-Australian websites such as www.aobo.com.au.
Zhang Zhuning, chairman of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association in Canberra, said Australian police were underestimating the "piles of monks" and Vietnamese "paid" thugs from Sydney who would create trouble.
But he was not afraid of local Falun Gong groups because Chinese triad gangs had "quietened them down".
The language about Tibet and the Olympic torch is more extreme inside China.
Individuals who have called for moderation or dialogue, such as Chang Ping, an editor at the Southern Metropolis Daily, have been subjected to vicious, personal denunciations on blog sites and in state-controlled newspapers.
Zhang Rongan, the Canberra-based student organiser, said the Chinese embassy in Canberra "is organising buses, food and places to stay" for protesters.
Chinese security official in Beijing has also told the Herald that the embassy was organising volunteers to provide a human wall to protect the torch, although the embassy did not return calls late yesterday.
Student organisers say they are arranging express courier deliveries of giant Chinese national flags from the mainland because shops in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne have sold out.