07 April 2008

Olympic Protests

The protests and numerous attempts at interruption of the Olympic torch relay have been well covered everywhere (except by CCTV of course). Still, beneath the typical "Boo-Hooray!" line of moralizing (less interesting even than usual since there is little dissent on all but the finest points) there are a couple of things I find genuinely interesting.

Like, this is the longest torch relay ever, and includes a planned trip to the top of Everest (and, so no one will mistake my boo-hooray position, I hope the mountain does a better job than the protesters have of defeating their plans, but that all the climbers survive since I would never wish such a horrible and lonely death on any one for any reason.) It makes me wonder - did they really believe that it wouldn't be turned into a global parade of protest? Could Beijing possibly have seen this through rose-coloured glasses, so much so that they actually didn't believe that hundreds of thousands would turn out in a dozen cities to try to spoil the parade? Because if not, then what the hell were they thinking? And if so, it must be a most incredible kind of hubris.

Which is another thing. Of course Beijing (and, dutifully, the IOC) are saying that the games should not be used for political purposes and so it's the protesters that are in the wrong here. But it was Beijing that decided to have the longest relay ever and climb Everest and traverse both Taiwan and Tibet on the "domestic" leg of the relay... in short, it has been Beijing from the start that has tried to politicize the event.

And it was exactly this politicization that was foreseen from the start and militated against choosing Beijing, so I guess most people can offer the IOC a big fat "I told you so" and just hope that slowly moulting bunch of geriatrics don't forget this particular lesson any time soon.

But worst, it seems as though it's a piece of cake to drag (or bribe? cajole? coerce? wink?) the democratic governments of largely free countries into baton wielding mass-arresters. Was that the whole plan? Maybe Mr. Hu is laughing in his tea because he will now pull out these videos of police action next time the Europeans try to bust his chops on human rights or whatever. A small price to pay, plus climbing Everest is cool.

Oh and finally a PS to Ms. Lee's HS English class from Chunghua. You will remember I was skeptical about the amount of force the PRC could bring against a particular enemy, as it would be limited by the need to defend against prospective other enemies opportunistically seizing the vacuum... well this isn't much really but there also isn't much of a vacuum so i think it's good evidence for opportunism:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/02/world/asia/03china.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
http://china.notspecial.org/

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