On the day the Olympic torch was carried through San Francisco last week, Grace Wang, a Chinese freshman at Duke University, came out of her dining hall to find a handful of students gathered for a pro-Tibet vigil facing off with a much larger pro-China counterdemonstration.
Ms. Wang, who had friends on both sides, tried to get the two groups to talk, participants said. She began traversing what she called “the middle ground,” asking the groups’ leaders to meet and making bargains. She said she agreed to write “Free Tibet, Save Tibet” on one student’s back only if he would speak with pro-Chinese demonstrators. She pleaded and lectured. In one photo, she is walking toward a phalanx of Chinese flags and banners, her arms overhead in a “timeout” T.
But the would-be referee went unheeded. With Chinese anger stoked by disruption of the Olympic torch relays and criticism of government policy toward Tibet, what was once a favorite campus cause – the Dalai Lama’s people – had become a dangerous flash point, as Ms. Wang was soon to find out.
The next day, a photo appeared on an Internet forum for Chinese students with a photo of Ms. Wang and the words ‘traitor to your country’ emblazoned in Chinese across her forehead. Ms. Wang’s Chinese name, identification number and contact information were posted, along with directions to her parents’ apartment in Qingdao, a Chinese port city.
Salted with ugly rumors and manipulated photographs, the story of the young woman who was said to have taken sides with Tibet spread through China’s most popular Web sites, at each stop generating hundreds or thousands of raging, derogatory posts, some even suggesting that Ms. Wang – a slight, rosy 20-year-old – be burned in oil. Someone posted a photo of what was purported to be a bucket of feces emptied on the doorstep of her parents, who had gone into hiding.
“If you return to China, your dead corpse will be chopped into 10,000 pieces,” one person wrote in an e-mail message to Ms. Wang. “Call the human flesh search engines!” another threatened, using an Internet phrase that implies physical, as opposed to virtual, action.
Nothing is scarier than the herd mentality, especially when the herd is being plain stupid. I care about this country and the people I love here, and they are so exquisite in the individual, and – at least at times like this – so frightening in the mass.
I know: it is infuriating and insulting to hear an ungrateful foreigner and a guest criticize his host. I really know. And I know the argument, Who are you to tell the Chinese people what to do and how to think? And my answer is, I am nobody at all. But I know stupid and immature when I see it, and right now you are hitting new peaks of immaturity and stupidity. And although I am nobody and a guest here, I have to say it.
If this is harmony, I’ll go for dissonance every time. My deepest sympathy to the noble Ms. Wang. And I hope the Chinese bloggers and others who hear about this act of depravity will have the courage and the cojones to make themselves heard and tell their people that this is plain wrong, that we mustn’t let blind rage overcome our rational thinking
To see a nation willingly surrender its critical faculties is heartbreaking, especially when you know what so many of these people are capable of, how much they want to learn and grow and improve their lives. Well, take it from a foreign nobody, acting like this will only take you backwards. Please, please stop, listen, and think for yourselves. Don’t let others do it for you. Don’t just heart CHINA because everybody else is doing it.
China has come so far so fast, but if it doesn’t grow up along the way it will be doomed to wallow in impotent and pointless rage. It can do better than this.
Sorry if I sound scolding. This is just so depressing.