My latest newspaper column (for the Ham & High) is about the Olympics and China’s behaviour:
I can’t help but observe the contrast between how Britain and China deals with protestors. In Britain – the police’s response to protests during the passage of the Olympic Torch through London was to pop the torch on a bus for a bit. How very English! And then in China we have the dark side of the contrast – the violence, gunshots and even deaths that are the frequent response to protests.
Standing in Bloomsbury Square last Sunday chanting ‘China Out’ in reply to a young Tibetan shouting out through a megaphone ‘Free Tibet’ reminded me not only of the issue in question but also of the feeling you get when you go out onto the streets to claim your democratic right to peaceful protest. It is active. And it makes you feel that you are not taking it lying down; not abjectly rolling over, tut-tutting at the pictures on the news whilst saying there is nothing I can do.
Indeed, in a world of global, near-instant media, protests in one part of the world can garner coverage all over the globe – including, directly or indirectly, in China itself. (I know how well the internet reaches all sorts in China from when I was on the London Assembly – and got a three page marriage proposal from a fisherman in a remote part of China!)
As you may have guessed – I don’t buy the argument that Olympics = sports = you mustn’t say anything about anything other than sport. The Chinese Government has been repeatedly and politicising the Olympics for its own ends – so simply mouthing that formula means conceding it is ok to politicise the Olympics to promote thuggish authoritarianism but not ok to speak out against such behaviour. Where is the morality in that approach of self-censorship and unnecessary deference?
Photo credit: Flickr user http2007