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Bloggers Arrested and Protesters Suppressed in Beijing

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As a follow-up to the highly publicized arrest last week of ITV journalist John Ray by Chinese police, it appears that on Thursday, at least six video and photo bloggers were arrested and are still being held by Chinese authorities in a jail in Beijing. Like Ray, these bloggers were attempting to provide coverage of pro-Tibet protests which have been taking place around Olympic events.

Apparently, the Chinese made the mistaken assumption that when they granted press credentials and visas to westerners, those bloggers and journalists would cooperatively restrict themselves to reporting on the Olympics, rather than spreading over the countryside in search of stories with a bit more bite to them than the scandal of China’s suspiciously young women gymnasts. Of course, in China, once you get away from the guided tour, there are a lot of things for a journalist or blogger to report on which are very unflattering to the Chinese.

These bloggers include Brian Conley, who was reporting for Internet culturezine Rocketboom and is the producer of Alive in Baghdad and James Powderly, of Graffiti Research Lab which engages in what can only be described as political art terrorism, and which seems frequently to involve drawing penises on things with lasers. Powderly was apparently preparing for a laser art protest statement when the Chinese authorities arrested him. Unlike earlier detainees who were released fairly quickly and then deported, Conley, Powderly, Jeffrey Rae, Michael Liss, Jeff Goldin, and Tom Grantles are being held substantially longer. Authorities have announced that they will be held for 10 days, long enough for the Olympics to end so that they can cause no further furor in the media to take advantage of the attention focused on China because of the games.

This is great publicity for any blogger and bound to get your cause and your site some notice. It's also a good opportunity for any journalist who wants his story to make the cut for the evening news. Whatever short term suffering these guys experience will be outweighed by the long term benefits in raising their profile. Things are not so good for the anonymous protesters they are trying to cover. They have been rounded up en masse by the Chinese government, and those who are Tibetans or Chinese citizens aren't going to get a few days in jail and a trip home. They face quick trials and then long sentences to live under inhumane conditions in forced labor camps. What's more, reports are coming in from some sources, including the Dalai Lama, that it is possible that 140 or more protesters have been shot in various incidents leading up to the games in Beijing. What is an opportunity for a blogger or a reporter may well be a final and fatal statement for the protesters.

Sophie Richardson, of the Asian branch of Human Rights Watch summed up the situation in Beijing rather well when she said in a recent statement:

"The 2008 Beijing Games have put an end – once and for all – to the notion that these Olympics are a 'force for good.' The reality is that the Chinese government’s hosting of the Games has been a catalyst for abuses, leading to massive forced evictions, a surge in the arrest, detention, and harassment of critics, repeated violations of media freedom, and increased political repression."

China hoped that these Olympics would show the world that they had come of age and were ready to become a full and respected member of the world community. So far the behavior of the Chinese authorities towards protesters and journalists has shown very clearly that the pomp and ceremony of the games cannot hide the systematic state oppression which remains an inescapable reality of life in China.

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About Dave Nalle

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    I’m not sure I expected much else from them. Regardless of the Chinese foray into capitalism, the country remains a totalitarian state. Certain elements of their society have been laxed since Mao’s demise, but it remains far from any semblance of a free society.

    While I was awed by the opening ceremonies, and much of the competition has been great to watch, I have continually been aware of the price paid by the average Chinese civilian. I believe that the IOC was remiss in awarding China these games. Such an award should have been put off for perhaps another 16 to 24 years. Beijing has pulled the games off, but the cost to so many people was far too high.

    I wouldn’t characterize the Chinese as “uncivilized.” I don’t know that the government in China is any more repressive than the Soviet government was when the Moscow Olympics were held, but I do believe that their having been awarded the games at this time was at best very premature.

    B

  • http://www.elitebloggers.com Dave Nalle

    I’d say that China is much less bad than the Soviet government was when they hosted the Olympics, but they should never have been given the Olympics then and China shouldn’t have been given it now.

    IMO it was a large mistake on China’s part to open itself up to so much scrutiny given the deplorable state of human rights there.

    Dave

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    I suppose China’s overriding interest in pursuring and hosting the games was to bolster it’s commercial credentials. I suppose they’ve accomplished that to some degree.

    But I think, even without consideration of their abysmal human rights record, they were really not ready to tackle such a huge undertaking. There are so many other things they needed to “get right” before they plunged into this mis-adventure.

    Again, I place a good deal of blame on the IOC for making the award in the first place. I imagine that money spoke louder than considerations regarding human rights, etc. There were other, certainly more deserving cities applying for these games than Beijing.

    B

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    The IOC are a bunch of whores, of course. Look at the disastrous scandals that came out of SLC a few years ago. We had to expect them to go wherever the biggest bribes took them, and it’s not surprising that China bought them off.

    Dave

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    I think China is a great country. Not the government, but the country, its people, its culture and history. I’ve only watched a bit of all the side stories surrounding the Olympics. But the little I’ve seen revealed the country’s true grace and beauty. I love Taoist poetry. Unfortunately, the government maintains its brutish hold over its people. I hope, that via whatever means, the Chinese people can ultimately shake off their oppressors so that their society and culture can come to full bloom as it should. The Chinese and much of the eastern world has a great deal to offer the wider world. Somehow, it must to manage to unshackle its own hands in order to do it.

    B

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    I think the oppression in China has deep roots. Take away the maoist rhetoric and you still have what is essentially the old imperial bureaucracy running the country. The Chinese are oppressed because that’s the way they’ve always been. I think it’s ingrained in their culture.

    Dave

  • bliffle

    Looks pretty grim.

    IMO, the Chinese communists screwed up. They tried to project a modern image and just showed what creeps they really are.

    IMO, the IOC screwed up, again, by flattering themselves to be agents of world peace and political reform, and once again just proved that they are whores.

    I feel like the only winner here as I saw not one minute of any of it. Apparently, I was just too busy to hookup the digital VHF antenna for the local OTA NBC signal, so I missed seeing Bejing smog in glorious 1080i HDTV.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan Miller

    Four months ago, I suggested that the Olympics might help to encourage at least modest improvement in China’s openness. To the contrary, it now seems that repression has increased and that openness has decreased. It is very difficult for a society like that in China to move from centrally imposed stability to something less repressive, and easy for it to revert from temporary openness to repression. Unfortunately, China didn’t seem even to get to the temporary openness stage.

    Dan

  • Clavos

    OK.

    So, we’ve got everyone from Dave Nalle and Dan Miller to Baritone and bliffle agreeing that the rulers of China are oppressive assholes.

    And these people (the Chinese, not the commenters) are very well poised to take over the role of top world economic power in less than a generation.

    Is it too over the top to say that this is the scariest scenario underway in the world today?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan Miller

    Clav,

    Is it too over the top to say that this is the scariest scenario underway in the world today?

    To attempt an answer to that question would be above my pay grade. However, Russia has been acting rather badly of late and seems to be going back the wrong way on the “J Curve.” At the moment, China needs us as a market for her goods, and Russia doesn’t. Also, there seems to be more stability in China (for what I consider to be the wrong reasons) and Russia appears to be a “Thugocracy” to a far greater extent than China. We can probably predict the actions of a repressive but stable society with which we have important commercial relations better than we can predict those of a repressive but unstable society with which we don’t.

    That said, both scare the willies out of me.

    Dan

  • Clavos

    Good points all, Dan, but there’s one specific reason why I consider the Chinese more dangerous in the long run: they’re going first after the one element that can make everything else go their way: MONEY.

    Putin is scary, too, I agree, and he has (oil) money as well.

    But in short order, the Chinese, by virtue of their singlemindedness, industriousness (they are very hard workers), and sheer numbers, will OWN the freaking world, and once there, it’s (IMO) “Katy, bar the door.”

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan Miller

    Clav,

    True, all too true. Unfortunately, by the time they get there it will be too late to bar the door.

    Do you think that perhaps VP Biden will think of some more proactive way to deal with the problem?

    Dan

  • STM

    Mornin’ Clav … I have a story on my tele blog you might like, about the WTC 7 findings :)

    Nalle gets a mention, and a link.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    What’s the link for your story blog?

    Dave

  • Clavos

    I got it.

    I got it.

    I got it.

    But you know that…

    That’s it, Dave.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan Miller

    Here is some more of the same concerning China’s massive suppression of internet sites — this time dealing with the alleged falsification of the ages of a couple of Chinese gymnast competitors.

    The substantive issue of the ages of these young women may be silly, and so may be the question of whether they should be disqualified. The disturbing thing is the length to which China can and will go to suppress speech.

    Dan

  • STM

    I couldn’t post it Dave. Akismet is getting me, but I got you post Down Under. Cheers, and thanks to you blokes for the great ideas :)

  • STM

    Thanks guys, if you reply on that other blog, it won’t post until Monday our time, as it’s almost 3am here and I’m buggering off home, and I have to post the comments up myself after checking them as we recently got sued for a mint. Cheers dudes.

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    I think Dan has it pretty well scoped out. Russia is far less stable than China. That there are any number of nukes laying around in Russia and many of their former satellite countries, some being guarded by a junior high hall monitor is scary stuff to contemplate.

    Putin is clearly a thug, a powerful thug. Russia has not handled “democracy” very well since the Soviet Union collapsed. Russians have NEVER lived in a free society. By and large, the majority of Russian citizens had no idea how to respond to a free society or free market. The communist regime was rife with corruption, and many of those same people grabbed the opportunity to put themselves in the cat bird seat. Early on, I liked Putin. Now, not so much. Hell, I like Gorbachev better than Putin. Despite his faults I think Gorbachev understood that the end of the Soviet Union was near, but he also understood that a wholesale collapse would cause a great deal of chaos in Russia, which was largely proven out over the next several years.

    China is a whole ‘nother smoke altogether. As Dan notes, it is far more stable than Russia could ever hope to be. Certainly, things are generally better there now than even a few years ago. In order for their capitalistic fortunes to rise, they had to loosen up their economy and, consequently, their society as well. I think the higher-ups in China took lessons from Russia’s collapse and concomitantly, from the wild success of Hong Kong and Japan, among others.

    I don’t fear China so much from a military standpoint, although they could certainly field one huge ass army. I don’t think that is their goal. It is, as has been suggested above, their goal to dominate the world economically. And they damn well might succeed! What that will mean for the rest of us is hard to predict. At some point will the Washington Monument have the large picture of Chairman Mao balefully gazing across the Mall? I suppose it could happen.

    But take heart Dan and Clav. You guys and I will probably be dead before that happens.

    B

  • bliffle

    One good thing is that we can all thank the Olympics for reminding us what deadly psychos the ChiComs are and always have been. And they did it with such shocking suddenness that almost everyone got the message.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan Miller

    Baritone,

    You guys and I will probably be dead before that happens. Thanks for the encouraging words, B :)

    Dan

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    Dan,

    I try.{:%>)

    B

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan Miller

    Clav,

    Here is an interesting article about Russian oil. It seems that for various reasons, including focus on quick term profits and failure to maintain infrastructure, Russian oil output has declined recently and is expected to continue to do so.

    Is it possible that Russia’s emerging oil problem has some nexus with her recent invasion of Georgia and continued presence there?

    Shades of Venezuela.

    Dan

  • Clavos

    Spot on, Dan.

    Their declining oil production may well be the impetus behind the negotiations with Chavez to put bases in Venezuela.

    Chavez had better think it over before he climbs into the cage with the Russian bear.