Tibet: Chinese Government Tries To Tone Down Nationalism…Will It Work?

There is a BIG difference between a protester and a separatist. A protester is a white man, holding a Tibetan flag, yelling, screaming and cussing at Chinese, a man ill-informed and stubborn. A separatist is a Tibetan man holding a Tibetan flag, yelling, screaming and cussing at Chinese, with the intent of separating the People’s Republic of China. In total, about 30 “protesters” came, and 2 “separatists” came. That’s right, only 2 Tibetans, and two or so dozens of ill-informed westerners.

Quote from text accompanying this pro-China YouTube of the protests surrounding the Olympic torch relay in Australia today:

The Australia Olympic torch relay was relatively peaceful today, with few disruptions. Taking place under a “Free Tibet” sign written in the sky over Canberra, the most dramatic protest moment was when a man sat down in front of the torch runner. He was quickly escorted away by police.

Al Jazeera has footage of that moment in this report:

The Sydney Morning Herald reports on the scuffles between pro-China and Free Tibet protesters:

Thousands of chanting pro-China supporters from across the country flooded Canberra’s streets with red flags from dawn before the Olympic flame travelled uninterrupted through the capital.

They easily outnumbered an estimated 2,000 pro-Tibet protesters who had pledged to peacefully highlight China’s human rights record.

There was taunting and some heated scuffles between the two groups, and pro-Tibet protesters later accused Chinese students of violence and intimidation.

But police also wrestled away some pro-Tibet demonstrators, including at least one who tried to sit in the path of torchbearer and former marathon runner Rob de Castella.

ACT chief police officer Michael Phelan said seven people were arrested and all charged under special major event laws put in place for the relay.

All seven, five of whom were pro-Chinese and two pro-Tibetan, remained in custody on Thursday afternoon.

link: http://news.smh.com.au/torch-r…

Now, for anyone who’s been watching the above YouTube and following this story, it may come as a surprise that the Chinese government – after stoking the flames of nationalism in a PR offensive against what they refer to as “the Dalai Lama clique” – would be taking active steps to curb that same nationalism.

But that appears to be exactly what’s happening:

In the latest sign, authorities informed participants in a major music festival that the event would likely be postponed to avoid providing a venue for new demonstrations of patriotic or anti-Western sentiment. Already, they have been cracking down on student protests and online videos of demonstrations have disappeared from Chinese Web sites.


The student crackdown appears to be particularly strong in the city of Hefei, in the eastern province of Anhui, where on Saturday, thousands protested outside a Carrefour store near the city’s university district, waving red flags and chanting “love China, boycott Carrefour.” On Sunday, universities there suspended classes and asked students to stay on campus, students say.

The Communist Youth League, a division of the Communist Party with a big presence on Chinese campuses, has been arranging meetings and distributing propaganda to calm nationalistic sentiment, say students. The Anhui branch of the Communist Youth League declined to answer questions.

“The atmosphere here on campus is a bit intense at this moment,” said a Ph.D. student surnamed Shen from Hefei’s China Technology and Science University. “Those who went out for the weekend protest were called for a talk in counselors’ office this week,” she said.

Some Chinese have reported difficulty sending text messages such as “boycott Carrefour” and “don’t shop at Carrefour” on the cellular network run by China Mobile Ltd., the country’s largest cellphone carrier. Rainie Lei, a spokeswoman for China Mobile, said the company wasn’t blocking any such messages.

link: http://online.wsj.com/article/…

Even the hackers have been told to reel it in:

Moreover, some Chinese hackers who had planned a significant attack on the Web site of Time Warner Inc.’s CNN, a major source of nationalistic resentment over its coverage of the recent unrest in Tibet, appear to have withdrawn. While CNN.com did experience an attack that affected users in Asia last Friday, hacker Web sites in China had promised much more.

The posts by some organizers of the attack calling for disbandment have an edge of “fear” to them, says Scott Henderson, author of the book Dark Visitor, about Chinese hackers. One in particular “could not have added many more exclamation points in his announcement,” he said. “It was a ‘PLEASE DO NOT HACK!!!!!!!!!’ sort of plea.”

link: http://online.wsj.com/article/…

State run media had this to say about the protests against the French company, Carrefour, in China:

“A stubborn insistence that those who do not join the protests and boycott Carrefour are not patriotic is false patriotism,” the newspaper said in an editorial. “Patriots are supposed to adopt a tolerant attitude toward others and be broad enough to see what is good and what is bad in them.

“Over-the-top nationalism is not constructive, but can do harm to the country. If we want to improve things, we will have to encourage responsible patriotism.”

link: http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/…

Just to keep everything fair and balanced, the Chinese government is also warning Tibetans to keep their opinions to themselves:

Chinese authorities will harshly deal with anyone who spreads rumours which “excite popular feelings” or disturb social harmony in the already restive region of Tibet, the government said on Thursday.

The notice, coming just months before the Beijing Olympics, seems to be aimed at Tibetans who listen to foreign radio broadcasts about the recent demonstrations in their remote mountainous region, skirt China’s firewall to access overseas websites or simply exchange news with friends.

“We will severely root out and give no indulgence to people with ulterior motives who spread rumours or excite popular feelings,” the Chinese-appointed government in Tibet said in a statement on its website (www.xizang.gov.cn).

Rumours which are “malicious and create serious consequences” will be “strictly dealt with in accordance with rules”, it added, without elaborating.

link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/spor…

Can Chinese authorities successfully maintain this negative peace through the Beijing Olympics? It remains to be seen.

Please keep all sides of this conflict in your thoughts, prayers and meditations, and please keep journalist and writer Jamyang Kyi in the forefront of your minds, as there is still no confirmation on her whereabouts after allegedly being detained by Chinese authorities.


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  1. and will not be doing my diary. Will return the week after.

    Just letting y’all know 🙂

  2. between the Tibetan freedom movement on one side, trying to disrupt anything connected with the Olympics and embarass Beijing in front of the world, and the Chinese government on the other, trying to maintain an appearance of normalcy.

    If the freedom activists are up to the challenge (and I suspect they are), this is going to be a miserable year for Beijing.

    The Olympics are the most visible platform for Tibet in years. They’re not going to let this opportunity pass them by.

    All people of good will should turn out in support, banging pots, pans, and dustbin lids to bring attention to the cause.

    • Zwoof on April 24, 2008 at 18:43

    This is what happens when ill-informed people on both sides are thrust into the spotlight. Some are seeking their 15 minutes of fame, others use it to further their own agenda and  others are following blindly, refusing to listen to opposing voices or reason. Many are denied information due to censorship and manipulation which then opens the door for others to spread rumors and untruths. Passion blinds. And then someone throws a rock and all hell breaks out.  The mob mentality takes over.  We are just a stone’s throw away from this. The ripples are global. There are those that welcome this on both sides of this issue. They take pleasure and profit from chaos. They are not in the streets with the people, but in boardrooms and think-tanks around the world.

    The Dalai Lama has tried to tone down the rhetoric, telling the 5 groups of exiled Tibetans to stop using the terms “Free Tibet” and “cultural genocide”. Several of these groups have declined and have urged both the Dalai Lama and the Prime Minister of the Government in Exile to “Stand aside” as they start a revolution that “not even Beijing can stop”. Google this “Don’t Stop the Revolution! – Jamyang Norbu”

    This week,the first domestic tour groups will be allowed into Lhasa since the March 14th riot.  There is no word on foreign tourism yet but the word is that they are trying to reopen as fast as possible because the economy has taken a major hit. Local Tibetans, Han and Hui are suffering together. One can hope that they can unite in the face of this catastrophe much in the same way people came together in NOLA.  May 1st is a major holiday here and it’s my opinion (and hope) that if the initial opening to domestic tourism is successful they will open Tibet to the rest of the world in May.  

    I do take issue with one word in your essay.

    OPINION…as in

    the Chinese government is also warning Tibetans to keep their opinions to themselves:

    That is not what your following blockquote said.  It said “rumours which “excite popular feelings” or disturb social harmony and rumors which are “malicious and create serious consequences”. In other words, what we call “inciting a riot”.

    If it is someone’s “opinion” that a theater is on fire when in fact it is not, it is not their human right to yell “Fire”.  The initial riot was started by outside agitators in this manner. People died as a result.

    The Chinese Government should be able to turn off the spigot of Nationalism here.  I’ve seen it done during the Japanese riots of 2005. They stopped just as quickly as they started. But there’s always that chance that one asshole will throw one stone or shout “Fire”.

  3. to read you, grannyhelen, and am so glad I did. This Tibet situation is mear and dear to my heart, but with a new job & a new blog, I admit, I have glanced at your headlines and thought “Right ON!” and not read.

    I know its a lame excuse, but at 45 I just took a hard manual labor job for small pay and it kicks my ass.

    Thank you for this… and any time you wish to cross-post from here (be sure to cite from Docudharma at the top!) I would be proud to keep this issue on my front page.

    (link in my signature)



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