Lhadon just posted a video of herself trying to arrange a meeting with the president of the International Olympics Committee, Jacques Rogge.Â She spoke with Robert Roxborough, the IOC Communications Coordinator, who took her number and promised he’d call her back.Â
Let’s hope Mr. Rogge takes the time.Â He obviously knows what this meeting is to be about;Â Lhadon posted an open letter to him on her blog (here).Â
Mr. Rogge should look at this meeting as a chance to hear important concerns about how China has hijacked the Games to further its own political interests.Â This issue is one the IOC should care about as well.Â Representatives of the IOC unfortunately seem to have confused the public relations image of the Chinese government with the principles that the IOC says the Games stand for.Â Perhaps Mr. Rogge can clear this up.
For instance,Â Hein Verbruggen, the IOCâ€™s chairman of the 2008 co-ordination committee, said, â€œThe way in which the Games are being used as a platform for groups with political and social agendas is regrettable.â€Â However, the Olympic movement claims to value “Cooperation with public and private organisations to place sport at the service of mankind.”Â
If Mr. Rogge isÂ concerned with the politicization of the Games, he should look at the Chinese government, which from the very beginning has been transparently political.Â Mr. Rogge cannot blame civil society for responding, Mr. Verbruggen’s accusations notwithstanding.Â Â So would the Games be better off cooperating with civil society working for human rights and freedoms for the people of Tibet and China (in the “service of mankind”), or with the regime that is opposing these goals?
The history of the 2008 Olympics is in Mr. Rogge’s hands.Â Will the Games go down as infamous as Hitler’s 1936 Munich Olympics (but with even more protests in the streets and stadiums)?Â Or will the Games be remembered as being a positive influence for freedom in China and Tibet?Â Mr. Rogge should know: the interests of the host city are not necessarily those of the overall Games, especially when a host like Munich 1936 or Beijing 2008 is acting at the behest of a disturbingÂ political agenda.
The confrontation between the Chinese government and groups supporting human rights and freedom has been set from the moment the IOC chose Beijing for the Games.Â Mr. Rogge has an opportunity to salvage the IOC’s decision, so that 2008 does not become synonymous with 1936.Â Let’s hope he takes it.
This is an account of a fantastic protest yesterday in Mexico City, organized by Exa Mendez, SFT’s Latin America Coordinator. You can find her blog at http://sftamericalatina.vox.com/.
Protest for the countdown, Mexico City
5 August 2007
I am very happy to write this little “report” about the countdown action that happened in Mexico City. It turns out that China is celebrating its 35 years of diplomatic relations with Mexico and the Chinese embassy organised all these cultural events and shows related to Chinese culture. Today 5th of August was the last day of the events and we thought it would be a great opportunity to show up and surprise the CHinese, because of the media coverage, and the visit of mexican authorities, we decided it would be much better to have our action today instead of wednesday.
The mexican TSG isn’t too big as you all know but I was very happy that in the end more people than I had expected showed up, in total it were 15 of us plus one entire family who support us sporadically, today they showed up the two parents, the grandma and the three kids wearing “Free Tibet” signs on their shirts, it was great.
we had in total Three signs in mandarin, one of them, the one I was carrying read “Free Tibet” then there was this other one saying “human rights for Tibet” and one more saying “is China indeed a responsible country?” (the guy making these is still a student of mandarin so our options were limited!) The banners in spanish said “China get our of Tibet” and “China plays games with Human rights” of course we had the flag too. We had our TEam Tibet fliers, we had fliers stating the 10 basic points about Tibet, and we had these stickers the mexican TSG printed which have info on Tibet and the Olympics on the back of each sticker.
We entered the square wearing shirts that read “free Tibet” “China kills Tibetans”, “the game is over, free tibet” etc. we also wore the black armband to show our solidarity with the hunger strike in India, and we also stuck to our shirts the Team Tibet badge.
The Chinese event that was scheduled for today was called “Ethnic minorities in China and their traditional customs”. Important to mention is the fact that this show happened in the main and biggest square in Mexico City, the Zocalo.
We entered the square from the side where the stage was so every one could see us, we entered chanting “Free Tibet” , and every one turned and looked at us, the faces of the Chinese were frozen! I could see them thinking “What the f*****!!!!!!” they had no idea where we came from or any idea who we were, all the Chinese organizers and the crew from the show were simply shocked, I could not believe their faces!. We stayed there handing in the info and showing the banners for over two ours until the show was finished.
We placed ourselves right in front of the scenario where all the Chinese could see us. At some point I took my “Free Tibet” sign in mandarin and went all the way to the front where the public and the Chinese people from the embassy and the chinese crew could see me. I went as close as I could and they simply didn’t want to look at me. Some of them turned their head to the opposite side, others looked and turned away, others started telling every one about the sign, it was great!! slowly all chinese organizers and people from the embassy knew I was there in front of their faces holding a “free Tibet” sign. I could see all these Chinese reading my banner and being shocked, one chinese lady yelled at me “What the hell are you doing here”? I yelled back “helping Tibetans free their country” she started telling her colleagues that I was there and they all kept staring at me.
At some point one of the chinese from the embassy pocked my shoulder and told me “Get out of here, get out of here” I said “no, this is my country and this is my right” he kept pushing me harder and harder telling me to get out of there, I said “I will get out of here when China gets out of Tibet” and I don’t know how I looked at him that he simply left. I didn’t like the fact that he started pulling my arm to get out of there.
Then I had this other big, tall chinese guy telling me at any chance he could “you look stupid, you don’t know nothing” every time he passed in front of me he said something… he said we were ignorant and that we didn’t know anything, he didn’t leave us alone the whole time we were there.
Also one chinese from the staff approached me and asked me “so tell me if you know it all, how large is Tibet’s territory” he said we should “inform ourselves before going there to hold those banners”
he looked at me and left whispering as he was leaving “bunch of ignorants”
the whole group were all over there place handing in the info and fliers and explaining to people why we were there, all mexicans’ reaction was pretty good, they kept saying they had no idea and that it was good we were there, one of them stood in front of us and started clapping.
We stood there holding our banners in front of the stage for over two hours, in the end when the show was over we moved to the front where all chinese media, staff, embassy people, and dancers gathered in a big group and we started chanting “free Tibet” , they looked at us and turned away. They did their best to ignore us but that was pretty hard. We knew they knew. we had like 4 mexicans with us that were not in the group saying “China you suck” ( ha ha) and “china is cruel and it should be out of Tibet” so that was good because they were powerful voices ha ha…
I can only say one thing, the Chinese were PISSED, shocked and didn’t know what to do. I did my best to put my “free tibet” sign on their way wherever and whenever the Chinese media were taking pictures of the public, I know they got me in some of their shots. We had two journalists from the biggest and main radio stations asking for interview, so I
spoke to them and hopefully they will air it.
I can only say the TSG was very happy because we all saw the frozen, shocked Chinese faces and also we managed to inform more mexicans, whose reaction was overall good.
I know the embassy knows about what we did now, because every chinese person saw us, and I know they DID NOT LIKE IT AT ALL (sob sob! HA!) Overall the impact of our action was great, China now knows Free Tibet supporters are in Mexico, and they won’t be happy when we bombard the embassy this wednesday with faxes and calls. Uh Ha!
Mexico is officially part of the movement!
Exa and the mex. TSG.
As Lhadon tests China’s claims of openness in Beijing, China is showing its true colors in Tibet. There, Chinese forces have arrested scores of Tibetans in eastern Tibet, and heavily increased surveillance in the capital, Lhasa.
The AP reports:
Scores of people have been arrested … following public calls for the return of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, reports said Friday.
Police and army reinforcements were sent to the town of Lithang … The reports said a local resident, Runggye Adak, was detained after he climbed onto a stage erected for Chinese officials, grabbed a microphone and asked the crowd if they wanted the Dalai Lama to return. [(H)undreds responded with a roaring yes.]
Other residents appealed to police and local officials to release him, leading officers to fire warning shots to disperse the crowd outside the local detention center.
RFA said about 200 Tibetans were detained following the protest…
(You can also read theÂ BBC’s article on this story here.)
Meanwhile in Lhasa, China is nervous that a hunger strike by Tibetans in India (now in its 26th day) is stirring passions in Tibet. The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy reports:Â
The tea shops, Internet cafes and telephone booths etc in all streets and alleyways of Bakhor (central market) were infiltrated by security police men in civilian dress. It is also reported that the number of police forces in civilian dress were also increased significantly to deal with any untoward incident. Moreover, restriction and vigilance was also stepped up in offices, schools, homes of ex-political prisoners and those of people whom the government deemed suspicious or normally held suspicious.
Chinese security forces are also worried about Tibetan exiles returning to Tibet:
According to a reliable source, it seems that the Chinese authorities in and around Lhasa City have issued terse instructions to travel agencies in and around Lhasa City that they were not suppose to provide help or assistance to any of expatriate Tibetans coming to Lhasa city during the coming days. If they do so they would be dealt with dire consequences of facing closure of their travel agency business if any untoward incident takes place.
These heavy-handed tactics point to a regime that feels incredibly insecure. The Chinese government knows that Tibetans see it as a foreign occupier, and that Tibetans want freedom and the return of their beloved leader, the Dalai Lama. Which is why however much China may try to whitewash its rule in Tibet, or make false promises of openness, its true colors always seem to show through. Can Tibetans ever really be free as long as China rules them?
What does it mean that SFT’s Lhadon Tethong is blogging from Beijing right now? In any civilized country, why should it be news that someone is peacefully expressing their views online?
Ah, but Lhadon is in China: the land of the “Great Firewall of China,” the land that Reporters sans frontiÃ¨res calls “unquestionably … the worldâ€™s most advanced country in Internet filtering,” the land where at least 52 people languish in prison for… simply blogging.
Of course Lhadon runs serious risks. She may be apprehended by Chinese security forces. Some foreign reporters have been attacked by government-sponsored thugs. If she didn’t have the protection of a foreign passport, she could end up where many other brave Tibetans have: locked in a torture chamber. Let’s pray for her, because she is in China and not in a country where free expression is a given. She has put her freedom and her safety on the line to tell the story of the reality behind Beijing’s Olympic propaganda.
The Beijing Olympics are integral to the Chinese governmentâ€™s effort to whitewash its atrocious human rights record and obscure its occupation of Tibet. The International Olympics Commitee (IOC) and Chinaâ€™s leaders insist that politics must not be allowed to sully the Olympics, but Chinaâ€™s bid was nothing if not political.
By awarding the Games to China, the IOC offered international legitimacy to Beijingâ€™s authoritarian rule and its brutal military occupation of Tibet. The IOC offered a major opportunity for the Chinese government to showcase itself to the world as a respectable, advanced, tolerant, and open power.
One question will be at the forefront of many people’s minds: how open and free will China really be? Lhadon is attempting to answer this question firsthand:
For too long, Tibetan voices have been silenced in this place. I’m here to speak as a young Tibetan activist, and to share what I see, feel, and experience as I explore Beijing and study the ways the Chinese government is using the Olympics as a propaganda tool… Letâ€™s see how open this place really is.
What Lhadon is doing would be completely legal in any civilized country… but in China it is a challenge to the regime. China: will you take away Lhadon’s freedom like you took away the freedom of so many Tibetans and so many of your own children? It is also a challenge to the IOC, who chose Beijing and has consistently stood with the Chinese regime against groups supporting press freedoms, human rights, Tibet, Darfur, etc. IOC: will you hold the Chinese government accountable to its promises of openness, or will you continue to show your spectacular lack of backbone?
Stay tuned… and keep up with Lhadon at http://beijingwideopen.org/.
…it’s SFT’s Lhadon Tethong!
China has invited the world to visit in August 2008. Exactly one year out, Lhadon has taken China up on its offer, landing in Beijing less than 24 hours ago.
During her travels, she’ll be prying Beijing wide open and exposing the reality behind China’s Olympic propaganda. In a country where ideas, words, and thoughts are heavily censored, speaking out in this way brings obvious risks. The International Olympic Committee should also consider itself duly warned as Lhadon will be testing its claim that the Games are improving human rights in China.
You can follow Lhadon’s experiences through her online travel blog: Beijing Wide Open — A Tibetan Activist Speaks Out One Year Before the Olympics at http://beijingwideopen.org/
The Chinese government hopes the glow of the Olympics will blind the international community to the brutality of its occupation of Tibet. They hope the world will accept China as a leader among nations and to see it as a country that is free and open just like the rest of the world. They hope the world will forget about 6 million Tibetans who continue to suffer under Chinese rule. We cannot let this happen. We must speak out and fight back. We must challenge them at every turnâ€¦ and thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m here.
Letâ€™s see how open this place really is.
Please click here now to continue reading, spread the word, and check back for daily updates as Beijing’s faÃ§adeÂ gets blown wide open!
The International Herald Tribune carried an opinion piece that echoes much of what SFT and the larger Tibet movement has been saying about the Olympics and China. Little comment is required:
‘Will the Olympics change China?”
Whatever happens, we will be surprised. The regime will strive to control matters, but the unexpected will occur.
I say this not just because of China’s prediction-defying track record, but also because many Olympics are remembered for things that weren’t supposed to happen. Yes, Hitler got more legitimacy than he deserved from the 1936 Games, but the stunning performance by a black American athlete, Jesse Owens, was not part of his Aryan-supremacy plan.
And who expected Munich 1972 to be remembered for a massacre? The Mexico City Games of 1968 are remembered for the Black Power salute of two African-American runners who were determined to draw attention to racism in the country for which they had just won medals.
It would be foolish to speculate about what sort of unplanned yet highly memorable event might happen during the Beijing Games. But you don’t need a crystal ball to know the sort that China’s leaders worry about most: a symbolic act of protest by a Chinese athlete or even a scene-stealing gesture of defiance by a spectator while the world’s gaze is fixed on Beijing.
The Olympics always provide a unique platform for the world’s finest athletes. The 2008 Games will also provide one for Hu Jintao & Co. in their ongoing quest to convince domestic audiences that they have made China great again; they seek to persuade international audiences that they are steering their country and its booming economy down the right path.
But this platform can’t be controlled, and China’s leaders are shrewd enough to realize the risk of trying too hard to keep the unexpected from happening.
Their hope of having the 2008 Games remembered as China’s great global coming-out party could crumble, not just as a consequence of protests but of ham-handed security measures that end in making the 2008 Games memorable less for their grandeur than for the tightly monitored nature of the proceedings.
The most interesting Olympic event to watch could turn out to be one not recognized by the International Olympic Committee: The tightrope-walk China’s leaders attempt when the global media are more focused on Beijing than they have been since 1989 – a fateful year when, as we know and Hu Jintao knows too, international audiences were alternately inspired by images of youthful Chinese protesters and appalled by those of menacing Chinese tanks.
LastÂ week’s “Day in Pictures” series from the BBC ran some interesting photos related to Tibet, so here isÂ the collection:
On July 27, the BBC carried this photo of His Holiness the Dalai Lama teaching in Germany:
And on July 25, the BBC carried this photo of “Chinese men and women, dressed in the typical costumes of the country’s ethnic minorities, listen to a pep talk ahead of the 2008 Olympics”:
The July 25 photo in particular begs for commentary:Â China will be using the Olympics as a propaganda tool to portray “minorities” as prosperous and happy. In upcoming Olympics-related events, look for more scenes with Chinese dressing in faux “minority” clothes, prancing around in exaggerated “ethnic” dances, oblivious to their neocolonial objectification of non-Chinese peoples. Certainly in the case of Tibet, this is a calculated move by the Chinese government to lay claim to Tibetan culture in an attempt to convince the world that Tibetans are Chinese.