Monday, April 28, 2008

Olympic farce: North Asia

The torch of shame did Seoul last night, and the trend of large pro-Chinese counterprotests reached its ugly conclusion. In Canberra, Chinese protestors bussed in by the embassy scuffled with human rights protestors. In Nagano, there were ugly scenes between competing Chinese and Japanese nationalists. And in Seoul, the Chinese decided that they'd just beat anyone who disagreed with them:

Hours before the torch run began in Seoul, several thousand Chinese, mostly students studying in South Korea, converged in this city's Olympic Park, singing, chanting and waving pickets that said “We love China” or “Go, Go China.”

When lone protesters demanded that China stop repatriating North Korean refugees, they were quickly surrounded by jeering Chinese. Near the park, Chinese students surrounded and beat a small group of protesters, news reports said.

In another scuffle, at the city centre where the five-hour torch run ended, Chinese surrounded several Tibetans and South Korean supporters who unfurled pro-Tibet banners, and kicked and punched them, witnesses said.

At one stage a Chinese mob decided to try and silence a group of 150 mostly elderly human rights protestors by throwing bottles, rocks, and steel pipes at them. "One world, one dream" - or else.

(New Zealand had its own version of this ugly nationalism in Auckland yesterday, when participants in a "pro-China" decided that their pride in and love of their country (or, less charitably, the pile of patriotic bullshit they'd been fed since day one by their totalitarian regime) gave them a licence to assault and intimidate those who disagreed with them. It's not acceptable in China and its not acceptable here. To their credit, the protest organisers at least intervened to try and stop it - but this is what happens when you start waving flags, and an excellent example of why we should treat all such incidents of patriotic chest-beating with suspicion).

The torch is now in Pyongyang, where it is finally getting the sort of greeting the Chinese have wanted all along - "hundreds of thousands of North Koreans in a choreographed mass display of flower-waving". Of course, North Korea is a totalitarian state which does not allow protests - just like China.