23 Apr. 2008

Democracy Torched In Canberra


So now we know who really runs this country. Beijing has wiped its arse with the thin fabric of Australian democracy. Kevin Rudd promised that Chinese security officials would not run with the Olympic torch in Canberra, but they ran anyway.

The Chinese government and the International Olympic Organisation simply ignored our Prime Minister, and the Australian people, and did what they wanted. They used our nation's capital - including Parliament House, a symbol of our free democracy, which went into lock-down - as a scenic backdrop for their global propaganda exercise.

Now the Chinese state media has the story and pictures they craved:
THE 15th leg of the global Olympic flame journey was completed in Canberra this noon as scheduled without major disruptions...

During the torch relay, tens of thousands of spectators, many of them enthusiastic Chinese expatriates and students, had lined both sides of the streets, waited hours and followed the torch bearers along the route, chanting support for the Beijing Olympics.

Before the cauldron was extinguished, local and international dignitaries had praised the relay as successful and wonderful.

High security profile was in place to prevent major disruptions, with some 1,000 security personnel deployed to safeguard the historical event for Australia.
That's it. Mission accomplished.

Kevin Rudd is supposedly big on symbolism. So take a good look at this, Kev: enraged protestors clashing along Anzac Parade; Chinese government supporters jumping the Australian War Memorial's barricades to intimidate Tibetan demonstrators; hate-filled rival groups screaming at each other in Reconciliation Square; and the words 'Free Tibet' written across the sky, by a pilot whose plane was hired by the Greens' Senator Bob Brown.

And then the coup de grace:
Final relay runner retired Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe, flanked by dozens of police, took the torch to the finish line in Commonwealth Park and lit the community cauldron, which quickly went out.
The Chinese government shipped over 100 bus loads of "One China" supporters into Canberra, taking organisers by surprise with over 15,000 Beijing activists. One bemused resident said it was a case of "spot the Aussie." The pro-China demonstrators assaulted people and tore down pro-Tibet banners.
In one incident, an Australian couple waving a Tibetan flag were mobbed by dozens of Chinese activists on Commonwealth Avenue Bridge.

The Chinese grabbed the flag, threw it off the bridge and began punching the man and woman, aged in their 20s. No police were around.
Australian Olympic Committee spokesman Mike Tancred said it was just like "taunting ... at a friendly football game". Sure, except the relatives and friends of one side lie dead or in prison.

As I predicted exactly one month ago, the torch relay has now become a Human Rights relay. But let's not forget who is behind all this:
Each of the 12 partners paid more than $US60 million ($63 million) in a four-year deal. From 2001 to 2004, sponsors contributed 39 per cent of the IOC's revenue, $US1.5 billion. Activists believe their protests are having an effect. The torch relay's angry reception has discomforted sponsors Coca-Cola, Lenovo and Samsung.
Remember that nobody even wanted to host the Olympic Games until a few years ago, when governments suddenly realised you could make a buck out of it. The IOC’s decision to give the games to Beijing, and Beijing’s desire for them, is a sad reflection of how much globalised Big Business now controls our governments, or works with them for mutual profit at the people's expense, even in Communist China.

And the genuine zeal with which many decent Chinese people support their government's lies should be a major warning to us all about the dangers of monopolised media.

Not to mention yer culture wars:
Pro-China demonstrator Jeff Li yelled at the pro-Tibetan supporters: "The Dalai Lama is a hypocrite, a liar, an ugly man... These people are idiots, they know nothing about China's history."


ELSEWHERE:

The Australian Tibet Council was heavily involved in protests and should have more news on their website soon.

FreeTibet.org has lots of information and links, including video of torch relay protests around the globe.

John Quiggan on nationalism.

Jeremy Searslinks to the official Chinese government site: lots of happy faces.

In case you missed it: Bush Versus Confucius.

LATER:

ACT government spokesman Jeremy Lasek in The Age: "The most important thing is the flame was never in danger, from start to finish."

Ted Quinlan, the chief organizer of the Australia relay leg, in a weak AP story:
"We didn't expect this reaction from the Chinese community which is obviously a well-coordinated plan to take the day by weight of numbers."
From the same story:
Security had been boosted — officials say the expense doubled in recent weeks to $1.9 million — along a route that had been shortened. But it still threaded along a 10-mile path past Parliament House and within 200 yards of the Chinese Embassy.

"We are determined that this torch will run its full route," Police Chief Mike Phelan told reporters Wednesday.

He said three Chinese torch officials allowed near the flame have no security role.
So what were they doing? Just showing their enthusiastic support, like all the other Chinese government stooges?

Another AFP story:
Australian police and the blue-and-white tracksuit-clad Chinese escorts physically played out a long running dispute over who was in charge of security.

On several occasions, Australian police pulled one of the Chinese escorts back from alongside the runner carrying the torch, until they appeared to reach a compromise as the relay continued on its 16-kilometre (10-mile) route, television footage showed.
Crikey! reports "rows and rows of empty seats":
"Crowds were kept fifty-odd metres away behind barricades... The occasional individual who advanced into the students clutching a Free Tibet placard was met with what appeared to be a prepared tactic of being surrounded by large Chinese flags... You don’t have to go to China to see Chinese nationalism at work. Our capital city will do just fine.
Murdoch media update, with number of buses revised down from "over 100" to "up to 80":
Television footage showed an AFP officer shunting a Chinese flame attendant off to the side after the official intervened to relight the Olympic flame. The incident was the first evidence that the Chinese may have exceeded their relay role...

The incident between the AFP officer and the attendant occurred after the flame had crossed Lake Burley Griffin, where it was greeted by former Olympic rower Megan Marcks.

But when the torch went out, Chinese flame attendants intervened as expected to relight the flame.
SMH on "torch thugs". There are plenty of reports about incidents like this in the above links:
Alistair Paterson, 52, from Lake George outside Canberra, said he was standing with his seven-year-old daughter on Limestone Avenue with an older couple, their teenage son and two other young women when they were attacked by a group of about 50 people draped in Chinese flags.

Mr Paterson said he was holding a "Free Tibet" banner and the older couple also had a pro-Tibet placard, which angered the group as it ran along the crowd side of the barrier.

"I got a flying kick in the leg, another bloke was hit in the head with a stick with a Chinese flag attached to it and our banners were torn down," Mr Paterson said.

"When I looked around there were three or four guys who I can only assume were Chinese who wanted to fight me.

"This gang of thugs rolled right through us and we had kids with us. My daughter was still shaking an hour later and is very quiet even now.

"I don't normally get angry but I am so angry right now."

Mr Paterson said he had wanted to show his daughter the meaning of peaceful demonstration.
Dare we hope that the AFP will be using closed circuit video tape evidence to round up those responsible, and revoke Chinese student visas where necessary? Will Mr Rudd ask the Chinese Embassy for a full explanation of these events? Will he explain to ordinary Australians why Chinese officials ignored his decision?

LATE UPDATE: The official narrative:
Mr Phelan has rejected claims there was tension between AFP officers and the Chinese flame attendants.

"In the beginning there was a slight communication misunderstanding but as you saw it was quickly sorted out," he said.
Nothing to see here, folks. Move along quietly now...

NEXT DAY (ANZAC DAY):

ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope says any Australian ambassador would probably do the same if the shoe was on the other foot.
Mr Stanhope says he is aware of contact between the embassy and Chinese organisations but does not know the degree of resourcing or support provided by the embassy...

"Just imagine if this had been the Australian torch relay in some other foreign capital," he said.

"I'm sure the Australian residents in that particular country at the time would have flocked and would have perhaps expected or anticipated some support from their embassy, so I think it's a quite reasonable thing to do."
More here.

Really? So we would all be OK with Aussie citizens beating up (for example) pro-Aboriginal demonstrators, destroying their flags, intimidating them into silence, spitting on them...? Really???

We Aussies would all be OK with our government co-ordinating a mass rally of intimidation in support of business and government propaganda objectives, which can best be described, under the circumstances, as "fascist"?

Now Stanthorpe is asking who is going to pay for the added security. Maybe he should sent the police overtime bill to the Chinese Embassy, or to the IOC?

EVEN LATER:

The story nobody wants to touch:
A final press conference descended into farce when Australian and Chinese officials argued over exactly what the Chinese guards would do.

Beijing spokesman Qu Yingpu said the attendants - branded thugs for their heavy-handed tactics - would take matters into their own hands if a torchbearer was threatened. He said the guards would "use their bodies to form a kind of defence for the torch bearer".

They were "trained security personnel with the ability to cover and evacuate the torch bearer in the case of an emergency", Mr Qu said as he read from the BOCOG relay manual.

"Flame attendants are deployed alongside and behind the torchbearer to respond to any immediate threat against the flame or the torchbearer."

The threat raises the prospect of Australian police arresting and imprisoning the Chinese guards in what would be a diplomatic flashpoint.

The remarks derailed attempts by ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope and his police chief to persuade the public local authorities were in control of the event.

They were seen by Australian relay organisers as a deliberate act of provocation by the Chinese, who have been told for months that they would not be allowed to have a security role.

It is believed the BOCOG document also contains clauses, not read out by Mr Qu, stating that any security activity by the flame attendants would have to be at the behest of local authorities.

A clearly furious Mr Stanhope, sitting metres from Mr Qu, said there were "communication issues" about the Chinese guards' role.

"The written remarks that were just referred to come from an earlier document in relation to the torch relay, which has not been accepted by the ACT Government," he said.

"They are not enforced by the Commonwealth or ACT Policing.

"We do have some issues around communications issues but the point that has been made on a number of occasions . . . is that all security will be handled by ACT Policing.

"That remains the case."

Mr Stanhope confirmed police had instructions to arrest Chinese attendants if they tried to take a policing role.

The fresh row came after Mr Stanhope wrote a letter to Chinese Ambassador Zhang Junsai on Monday, in which he reiterated the guards had to butt out of relay security.

He phoned him again yesterday with the same message, after Mr Zhang said on Tuesday that the guards could "use their bodies" to protect the flame.

And after yesterday's disastrous press conference, government insiders said Mr Stanhope ordered police to "read the riot act" in a personal briefing to the flame attendants last night.
In other words, the Chinese officials and their ambassador simply ignored our government. Not good enough, Kev. What are you going to do about it?