Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Other Jackboot Drops

I'm enjoying watching The Olympics, but the way that the television coverage has been such a pro-China love-fest is really sickening to me. There has been virtually no talk about the way in which China has utterly squashed dissent and protests during the games after promising to open up (and the networks have cooperated with China's heavy-handed efforts to put only its best face forward, most notably with the computer-enhanced opening ceremonies). Fortunately, the print media has been considerably better, and today the New York Times has the story of two elderly Chinese women who have been sentenced to "re-education" after their unsuccessful efforts to get a protest permit.

This is after China (a) designated protest locations at isolated, out-of-the-way locations, and (b) refused to approve any of the 77 applications it got for protests. So now we can add (c) arresting people for attempting to file the application and sentencing them to potential hard labor. The Times also documents various other charming anti-protest strategies, such as "disappearing" folks trying to apply, or simply refusing to distribute the permit forms at all.

When I watch sporting competitions, nothing raises my blood pressure than unfair play. From the underage gymnasts to the replacement of China's singer with someone "cuter" to the media-assist on the opening ceremonies to the broken promises of liberalization, there has been a cloud of dishonesty to these entire games. So next time you see the picture of the gorgeous Bird's Nest or the spectacular Beijing skyline, remember that there is an undercurrent to the whole proceedings, and it's called authoritarianism.

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