Rumors and Racism

Jeremiah

I seriously hope this is just a hysterical rumor run amok…but then again I have seen people of color refused service at Beijing bars before while Chinese and caucasians continued to be served, so I guess anything is possible.  That said, I agree with The Shanghaiist: even by Beijing Olympic standards, any official who actually went around telling people this stuff would have to be mind-boggling, gobsmackingly stupid.

UPDATE: As suspected, this has the strong whiff of a rumor that went out of control.  Beijing nightlife guru Jim Boyce was on the case immediately and came up empty.  Closer to home, crusading journalist YJ was also calling around, talking to several owners including Huxley, and similarly came away empty.

I’m guessing that this is a “somebody said something to somebody else” game of telephone that ran amok.

It is an open secret that various levels of discrimination do exist at Beijing’s nightspots, we’re just glad that it hasn’t become official policy.

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BBC will show Olympic protests

From Richard Spencer in the Telegraph:

The BBC, the only British broadcaster with access to stadiums this summer, says it cannot be expected to hide demonstrations if they happen at events where they have cameras.

Its decision, which it stresses will be applied “responsibly”, will increase Beijing’s nervousness as the Games approach.

The Beijing Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, BOCOG, has already had angry exchanges with the world’s leading broadcasters who complain of delays over permits to bring their equipment into the country and to deploy them around the city.

At stake is not only control over what sort of events can be broadcast, but also increasingly tight restrictions on shooting locations, with Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and other sites with important symbolic value on the list of those off-limits to broadcasters.

Despite promises of unprecedented access for the world’s media during the games, it is becoming clear to many journalists in Beijing that the government and BOCOG are increasingly wary of allowing in so many prying eyes, roving cameras, and possible hidden agendas. This has sparked tension between representatives of the foreign media and their Chinese handlers.

Dave Gordon, head of major sports events for the BBC, told The Daily Telegraph that Beijing had become “more difficult” for broadcasters than the Moscow Games in 1980.

He said international representatives had tried to get answers for two years on whether the Olympic broadcasting agency that provides the only feed of the actual events would show footage of protests if they occurred.

“They fudge the question,” he said. “They won’t commit to saying yes, they will cover it or no, they will not cover it. They put a lot of stress on the importance of covering the sport. I think we have to draw our own conclusions.”

Mr Gordon said the BBC paid a lot of attention to “responsible” coverage of protests and whether 24-hour rolling news meant coverage of individual protests might become disproportionate.

But he added it was unthinkable that if its own cameras in the stadium picked up a protest it would not be shown. “We have to cover the Olympics warts and all,” he said.

“Warts and all” is a standard worth discussing. For as much as BOCOG and the Chinese government love to whine about how ‘foreigners’ are politicizing the Olympics, only the most naive or disingenuous would deny that the Beijing games have always come with striking political overtones. For both the government and people, these games are about more than medals and celebrity hurdlers. On my television set nightly and in conversations around Beijing I inevitably hear the refrain of ‘celebrating new China’ and ‘demonstrating to the world how far China has come (back).’ There’s nothing wrong with that, but if one is inviting guests over to admire the new draperies, can we fault the visitors for whispering amongst themselves if they also happen to see your child has a black eye?

I remember the extensive coverage of the 1996 pipe bombing during the Atlanta games. It was news and it had to be covered. Atlanta received an enormous amount of scrutiny and criticism, not only for security but also for being–until 2008–the most commercialized games in Olympic history. Such was the antipathy that at the closing ceremonies then IOC president Juan Antonio Saramanch withheld his usual polite ‘best games ever’ compliment. Sure there were some bruised feelings in the Peach Tree State, but people got over it. If something similar happened in Beijing, what would be the response?

In terms of television feeds and media access, at issue is this: What are the rights and responsibilities of broadcasters covering the games? Should they only show sports or do they also have an obligation to take a broader perspective in the event of protests and demonstrations, or even a single act of defiance by an athlete with an agenda? Any thoughts?

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Another visa crackdown rumor

And away we go…again.

Chinese authorities have stopped issuing multiple-entry visas and slowed visa processing in Hong Kong, a major gateway for travel to the mainland, until after the Beijing Olympics, local travel agents said Tuesday.

The Chinese foreign ministry, however, denied there was any change in policy.

Hong Kong-based travel agent Forever Bright Trading Ltd. said on its Web site that multiple-entry visas were suspended from March 28 until Oct. 17. The Beijing Olympics are scheduled to take place Aug. 8-24.

Travel agent Luk Tak said Chinese authorities are now only issuing single- or double-entry travel visas to foreigners in Hong Kong, scaling back a visa program that used to issue multiple-entry business visas that lasted up to three years.

I know many people here in Beijing take advantage of the Hong Kong border run to renew visas, a key option as there have been increasing reports about difficulties with visas at the PSB center here in Beijing and in a few other cities.

Anyone in the loop know more about what’s going on? Any recent visa stories to share?

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Hu Jia Sentenced to 3.5 Years

It’s a story that is going to receive a lot of coverage (already has actually) but I think the best piece so far is by John Kennedy at Global Voices Online. John’s post captures both the tragedy and the complexity of Hu Jia’s case and includes a number of useful references and important links. Here is a too brief excerpt:

Playing Captain Kangaroo may work in Zhongnanhai, but the reality that Hu and Zeng and their supporters have chosen to live in goes more like a Kanye West song. When Hu was first kidnapped around this time two years ago, Zeng Jinyan started a blog on which she documented the bureaucratic games she saw being played as she ran around Beijing trying unsuccessfully to find out what had happened to her husband, who was dropped off miles from home and with no notice over a month later.

When Zeng herself soon became subject to constant surveillance, she slammed on the brakes and started getting in their face.

Placing Hu under ongoing house arrest in 2006 effectively put an end to the environmental protection and AIDS awareness work for which he had already become quite well-known, and so trapped at home with little more than an internet connection, he not only created a whole new approach to activism, which some are calling Tiananmen 2.0, he switched gears to become a social worker of sorts, enabled by technology to keep constant track of a whole range of cases, and where possible, enabling others [zh] to do the same.

In 2007, Zeng Jinyan was chosen by TIME Magazine as one of the most influential people in the world.

This will no doubt go down as a landmark moment in Chinese history, but to this day anyone looking to China’s largest search engine for more information needs to be prepared for disappointment. In the China of today, though, someone like Hu Jia just doesn’t quietly disappear, and when state agents abducted him again last December, near-blind family friend Zheng Mingfang went straight to the streets and did what she could, walking up to strangers and explaining Hu’s situation, collecting signatures for a petition calling for his release. Early last month, however, Zheng too was arrested.

Words fail.

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Are direct democratic elections unsuitable for China? — the case of Taiwan

Interesting opinion piece by Huang Wenxue and translated by Heather Saul at China Elections and Governance run by the Carter Center.

Huang argues:

The media reported that “the election of Taiwan regional leadership was peaceful and orderly.” This means that direct democratic and popular election of government leadership has already taken place in Taiwan, a region with a population of more than twenty million. This is a resounding slap in the face for those who say “China is ill suited for direct democratic elections,” and that “China does not have the proper conditions for direct democratic elections.” Of course, what works in one region cannot be applied universally to all parts of China. However, what we have is a case of successful Chinese direct democratic elections. In this context, the continual promulgation of the idea that “direct democratic elections are unsuitable for China” not only belittles China, but also implies that Taiwan is not a part of China. As of now, when Mainland China will start allowing the direct election of township leaders is not the point. What is presently important is that Chinese leaders admit that Taiwan, as a part of China, is a successful case of direct elections and that other regions in China may have similar conditions of suitability for this kind of democracy.

For as much as mainlanders like to occasionally snicker at the boisterous and raucous world of Taiwanese politics, the system is maturing rapidly. I strongly suggest reading the essay in its entirety. The original Chinese-language text can also be found here.

H/T Danwei.

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Foreign media bias and 3.14

I have an essay over at The China Beat (mainland link) on foreign media coverage of the unrest in Lhasa and other areas of Western China. It’s a long piece, but then it’s a complicated subject, and I’d be interested in the thoughts and comments of our TPD community.

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News out of Tibet: Updated

UPDATE SUNDAY 6:30 A.M. BEIJING TIME

AP:

China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported at least 10 civilians were burned to death on Friday. The Dalai Lama’s exiled Tibetan government in India said Chinese authorities killed at least 30 Tibetans and possibly as many as 100. The figures could not be independently verified.

In the Tibetan capital Lhasa on Saturday, police manned checkpoints and armored personnel carriers rattled on mostly empty streets as people stayed indoors under a curfew, witnesses said. The show of force imposed a tense quiet.

Several witnesses reported hearing occasional bursts of gunfire. One Westerner who went to a rooftop in Lhasa’s old city said he saw troops with automatic rifles moving through the streets firing, though did not see anyone shot.

Foreign tourists in Lhasa were told to leave, a hotel manager and travel guide said, with the guide adding that some were turned back at the airport.

“There are military blockades blocking off whole portions of the city, and the entire city is basically closed down,” said a 23-year-old Canadian student who arrived in Lhasa on Saturday and who was making plans to leave. “All the restaurants are closed, all the hotels are closed.”

NYT, among other sources, are reporting on the uprisings in Xiahe, Gansu:

Thousands of Buddhist monks and other Tibetans clashed with the riot police in a second Chinese city on Saturday, while the authorities said they had regained control of the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, a day after a rampaging mob ransacked shops and set fire to cars and storefronts in a deadly riot.

Residents in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, walked through Barkhor, an ancient part of the city where protesters had set fire to a shop and several vehicles on Friday.

Conflicting reports emerged about the violence in Lhasa on Friday. The Chinese authorities denied that they had fired on protesters there, but Tibetan leaders in India told news agencies on Saturday that they had confirmed that 30 Tibetans had died and that they had unconfirmed reports that put the number at more than 100.

Demonstrations erupted for the second consecutive day in the city of Xiahe in Gansu Province, where an estimated 4,000 Tibetans gathered near the Labrang Monastery. Local monks had held a smaller protest on Friday, but the confrontation escalated Saturday afternoon, according to witnesses and Tibetans in India who spoke with protesters by telephone.

Residents in Xiahe, reached by telephone, heard loud noises similar to gunshots or explosions. A waitress described the scene as “chaos” and said many injured people had been sent to a local hospital. Large numbers of military police and security officers fired tear gas while Tibetans hurled rocks, according to the Tibetans in India.

“Their slogans were, ‘The Dalai Lama must return to Tibet’ and ‘Tibetans need to have human rights in Tibet,’ ” said Jamyang, a Tibetan in Dharamsala, India, the seat of the Tibetan government in exile, who spoke to protesters.

Update by Raj

An eyewitness account via the Times, by James Miles of The Economist in Lhasa. [The Economist had been given permission to enter Tibet recently - Chinese officials will be kicking themselves over that!]

Unsurprisingly Chinese “security forces” may well have kicked this all off.

It began with an attack on monks near one of Lhasa’s temples. The security forces are reported to have beaten a couple of monks with their fists and this led to a monk retaliating by throwing stones at police and police vehicles. Nearby crowds then joined in, throwing stones at Chinese shops and businesses.

Obviously Tibetans didn’t get the memo from Beijing that if they’re attacked by government thugs, they’re to smile, thank their attackers and ask if they wouldn’t mind handing out another beating…..

Update by Richard TPD:
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Chinese security forces in Lhasa on 5th day of protests

Chinese media are now saying ten have been killed in the Tibet protests. Whether the protests are wreaking chaos or whether they are small and localized seem to depend on whom you’re asking. What is not in question, however, is the fact that the CCP is now scared shitless of the cloud this has to cast over their beloved Olympic Games. Relevant or not, fair or not, there is no way they can reconcile the scenes of chaos with the rosy glow of harmony in which they shroud the Games.

The image China has attempted to show the world is flawed and there’s no way they can hide its deep structural defects. Winning the Olympics truly was “a double-edged sword.”

UPDATES SATURDAY MARCH 15: Associated Press, Reuters:

TURMOIL IN TIBET — Protests led by Buddhist monks against Chinese rule in Tibet turned violent, filling the provincial capital of Lhasa in smoke from tear gas, bonfires and burned shops. According to eyewitness accounts and photos posted on the Internet, crowds hurled rocks at riot police, hotels and restaurants. The U.S. Embassy said Americans had reported gunfire. U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia reported two people were killed.

DALAI LAMA COMMENT — Tibet’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, called the protests a “manifestation of the deep-rooted resentment of the Tibetan people,” and urged both sides to avoid violence. In Dharmsala, India, the site of Tibet’s government-in-exile, he urged China’s leadership to “stop using force and address the long-simmering resentment of the Tibetan people through dialogue with the Tibetan people.”

U.S. COMMENT — White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Beijing needs to respect Tibetan culture and multi-ethnicity in its society. “We regret the tensions between the ethnic groups and Beijing,” he said, adding that President Bush has said consistently that Beijing needs to have a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. The U.S. ambassador to China has urged the government to “act with restraint” in dealing with the protesters, said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

OLYMPIC OUTLOOK — The violence poses difficulties for a Communist leadership that has looked to the Aug. 8-24 Olympics as a way to recast China as a friendly, modern power. Too rough a crackdown could put that at risk, while balking could embolden protesters, costing Beijing authority in often-restive Tibet.

We’ll try to keep updating as the day progresses. Several commentators have left links below for photographs of the unrest in Lhasa. China Digital Times is also posting updates and information as they become available.

FRIDAY POST
From the NYT:

Chinese security forces were reportedly surrounding three monasteries outside Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, on Thursday after hundreds of monks took to the streets this week in what are believed to be the largest Tibetan protests against Chinese rule in two decades.

The turmoil in Lhasa occurred at a politically delicate time for China, which is facing increasing criticism over its human rights record as it prepares to play host to the Olympic Games in August and is seeking to appear harmonious to the outside world.

Beijing has kept a tight lid on dissent before the Games. But people with grievances against the governing Communist Party have tried to promote their causes when top officials may be wary of cracking down by using force.

Qin Gang, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, confirmed Thursday that protests had erupted in Lhasa, but declined to provide details. He described the situation as stable.

Retuers also reports, citing sources who contacted the London-based Campaign for a Free Tibet, of other demonstrations being suppressed in ethnic Tibetan areas in Qinghai and Gansu:

Another rights group said about 400 monks from Lutsang monastery in the northwestern province of Qinghai, known in Tibetan as Amdo, protested on Monday and shouted slogans for their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to return.

About 100 monks from Myera monastery in the neighboring province of Gansu also protested on Monday, the rights group said, adding that police were investigating who was involved.

A source with knowledge of the protests quoted monks and witnesses as saying the sound of gunfire was heard outside the walls of monasteries. But no casualties have been reported.

The Christian Science Monitor has a reporter on the ground in Lhasa:

On most nights, Barkhor Square is full of ancient-looking pilgrims on a Buddhist kora around Jokhand temple, a 1,400-year old World Heritage Site.

But last Tuesday around 9 p.m., it was unusually quiet when about 30 police officers wearing riot helmets sped into the cobblestone streets in vehicles resembling golf buggies. In front of a few foreign tourists, the police grabbed two young men in street clothes, put them in headlocks, and hauled them away to a nearby police station…

In Barkhor Square, police officers shooed the group of foreign tourists out of the square and back to their hotels. The officers were smiling, as if this was for the foreigners’ safety. Clearly, something was going on in the latest hot spot of Asian tourism.

A young European backpacker, gasping for breath in Lhasa’s 3,650-meter altitude, came running into a hotel looking for an Internet connection.

“There’s a big protest going on in the road to Sera monastery,” he said. “There are hundreds of people in the street, howling like wolves. They look like local people and they’re angry because the police have arrested some monks. I didn’t see them fighting with police. It didn’t look violent. The police chased some of them into small alleys to arrest them.”

The tourist said police picked up him and other foreigners, questioned them, and escorted them to the hotel district in unmarked cars, warning them to stay inside. The backpackers sent out personal reports on the Internet, even as uniformed police and men believed to be spies stood outside cafes watching them.

This follows other news this week that Indian authorities have blocked Tibetan demonstrators who planned a march to the Chinese border, and reports that the Chinese government is restricting access to Mt. Everest this year, a move widely seen as a response to an incident last year when a pro-Tibetan independence banner was displayed on the summit of the world’s highest peak.

Not sure what the whole story is here, and I’m sure there is much more to it, from both sides, than what we know so far, but it’s a situation that certainly bears watching.

This might also be a good time to pull one from the vault, be sure to check out Dave at The Mutant Palm’s April, 2007 post: “Free Advice for the Free Tibet crowd.”

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CCP Official Wang Lequan: “Terrorists targeted Beijing Olympics.”

Wang Lequan, the top CCP official in Xinjiang, spoke Sunday regarding the January 27 raid on a suspected Uighur terrorist cell in Urumqi:

AP:

BEIJING – Police captured and killed alleged terrorists plotting attacks targeting this year’s Beijing Olympics, a Chinese official said Sunday.

Wang Lequan, the top Communist Party official in the western region of Xinjiang, said materials seized in a Jan. 27 raid in the regional capital, Urumqi, had stated the plot’s purpose as “specifically to sabotage the staging of the Beijing Olympics.”

“Their goal was very clear,” Wang told reporters in Beijing.

Wang mentioned the raid during a meeting on the sidelines of the parliament’s annual session but provided few specifics.

China has been fighting a simmering insurgency amongst Muslim separatists from the Xinjiang region’s Uighur population.

Dave at the Mutant Palm has an excellent overview of Chinese media coverage of the raid which I strongly urge everybody to read in its entirety before commenting.

It’s certainly a situation that bears watching, both for what happens and how such incidents are reported in the Chinese and foreign press.

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More American than Apple Pie…

Now for something a little lighter, Stephen Colbert interviews Jennifer 8 Lee, author of the new book The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the world of Chinese Food.

It’s all in good fun, and as a historian, I (Jeremiah) was pleased to see Zuo Zongtang get his props as something more than “The Chicken Guy” (as my students occasionally refer to him).

Colbert quote: “Is Chinese food safer to eat than Chinese toys?”

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The Peking Duck Photo Caption Contest

Part of an irregular series here at The Duck. Ideas for a suitable caption?

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Source: That’s Beijing

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