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Posts Tagged ‘olympic torch’

Attending an Olympic Games hosted by China was always going to throw up some interesting challenges for the Taiwanese team, and the China’ Taiwan Affairs office have decided to spice things up. The controversy revolves around the name that Taiwan competes under at the Olympics…

The situation is this: in 1989 China and Taiwan agreed that the latter would be referred to as Zhonghua Taipei (中华台北) which translates as Chinese Taipei. Bob’s understanding is that Zhonghua does mean ‘China’ but is not used to refer to the nation that we know today. This week however “Yang Yi of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office has suggested that Zhongguo Taipei (中国台北) is just as valid as an Olympic designator” (via Shanghaiist). Zhongguo being the name used to refer to modern China, as we know it.

The implication of the change in semantics is probably best put; it’s like changing from ‘Chinese Taipei’ to ‘China’s Taipei’.

This is not the first time that the Chinese Olympic organisers have tried to use the Beijing Games as a PR tool for implying Taiwan’s belonging to the mainland. When organising the (fated) Olympic torch relay an invitation was extended to Taiwan: the Taiwanese were very happy to be part of the international leg, which passed through London and Paris along it’s way, but were less pleased to find out that they had been scheduled between Hong Kong and Macao as part of the domestic route (which also climbed Everest and ghosted through Xinjiang). Funnily enough Taiwan refused.

These stunts are clearly lined up to reinforce the official Party line in China that Taiwan is part of the same country. This is an opinion held very strongly within the general population, who will often express a deep wish that Taiwan would ‘come back to its family’. Bob is unsure of who the PR machine is trying to convince; the Chinese population who are already on side, or the ignorant international community, many of whom may not know what Taiwan’s status is.

Bob is not unfamiliar with the complicated way in which the Chinese view Taiwan; a couple of stories come to mind from teaching in China. The first being a polite scolding from a politically aware colleague that we had better go back to Google images to find a different map of China (one that included Taiwan!).

Map of China WITH Taiwan

Map of China WITH Taiwan

Map of China WITHOUT Taiwan

Map of China WITHOUT Taiwan

The second event being a discussion of landmarks which turned to the subject of the world’s tallest buildings. The students seemed puzzled when Bob suggested that indeed China was already home to the world’s tallest building. “No” they said, “that will be in Shanghai, but it’s not finished yet”. A little confused and cautious of what to say Bob pointed out that Taip – ei was home to the current tallest skyscraper and so of course it was Chinese. At this point the students also seemed confused at whether the tower was in fact Chinese; perhaps it was a Zhonghua tower, but not a Zhongguo tower?

World's Tallest Tower in Taiwan (China?)

World's Tallest Tower in Taiwan (China?)

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This week the Boston Globe has a collection of photos from various anti-terrorism exercises and demonstrations (thanks to Rachel for pointing this out). A number of these come from “a week-long series of anti-terrorist drills called “Great Wall 5″, in preparation for the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games”, so the Globe claims.

Although this may just be an excuse to put images of the Chinese military in the western press, it is a very striking collection of pictures. This does not appear to be another case of the media pulling out misleading images to portray its own story – as was picked up by the Chinese bloggers at anti-cnn.com – as most images are sources from the Chinese press and come with detailed explanations of where and when the were taken.

Here are a few to feast your eyes on:

Chinese Paramilitary Olympic Preparations

Chinese Paramilitary Olympic Preparations

Chinese Paramilitary Olympic Display

Chinese Paramilitary Olympic Display

Chinese Armed Anti-Terrorism Police In Preparations For The Olympics

Chinese Armed Anti-Terrorism Police In Preparations For The Olympics

And finally a picture that tells a thousand stories, taken in Xinjiang during the Olympic torch relay through the capital Urumqi that was commented on here for the high levels of security.

Chinese Police Presence In Urumqi For The Xinjiang Leg Of The Torch Relay

Chinese Police Presence In Urumqi For The Xinjiang Leg Of The Torch Relay

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Xinjiang Mosque

The Olympic torch is continuing it’s path to back to Beijing via every province in China, and the most recent legs have been passing through the country’s largest province, Xinjiang. However the atmosphere of the relay appears to have been unusually quiet, as many local people have been told to stay away. There has been little coverage of this section of the torch’s journey, but James Reynolds has blogged about it’s passage in Urumqi and Kashgar.

Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region is a hugely interesting but little known part of China. You can compare the position of the local Uighur’s to their southern neighbours, the Tibetans. An ethnic minority with strong religious ties and some history of separatist sentiment, both have been at the receiving end of strong handed treatment from the Chinese government. The Muslim Uighur people and the Xinjiang deserts have not caught the international attention that the Tibetan cause has, but for good coverage of the situation there try Simon Elegant’s writing for TIME’s China blog:

The Other ‘Tibet’ – 16th April

In China’s Wild West – 17th April

The High Cost of Control – 3rd April

In order to prevent any more embarrassing protests the government has strictly controlled movement within the cities of Xinjiang that the torch has visited. As James Reynolds explains:

“The authorities here didn’t want reporters wandering away off on their own during the relay [in Kashgar]. So, just after dawn, we were all driven to the square outside the Idkah mosque for the start of the relay (to help identify us, local officials gave each of us two red stickers and politely told us to put one on our chests and one on our backs).”

Foreign journalists were not the only ones with access to see the torch limited:

“most – if not all – shops and businesses were shuttered. There were no cars on the road. Local people had been told to stay indoors.”

The Chinese authorities have managed their PR related to Xinjiang well – they have avoided much coverage of Uighur protests, and have been able to portray the Uighurs as Islamic terrorists rather than a supressed minority. Events like this torch relay do seem to undermine the positive impact that the Olympics are meant to bring, it’s certainly not evident that the 2008 Games will help the case of the Uighurs.

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Beijing Olympic Torch Comes to Everest

The BBC’s Jonah Fisher is one of a number of journalists in a heavily monitored party making their way to Everest Base Camp to see the second Olympic Torch begin its assent of the world’s highest mountain.

“The second Olympic torch is now at Base Camp ready for the climb.

“For whatever reason there is apparently still no chance of us being able to witness the start of its epic ascent.”

Preventing the Olympic torch reaching Tibet was one of the main objectives of protesters who targeted the torch’s relay around the world earlier this month. In this they have failed, but news that the Chinese will re-open dialogue with the Dalai suggests a success on the protesters part.

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The Chinese authorities released a report which seems to have indicated that they will be willing to resume communications with the Dalai Lama. Bob has waited to couple of days for more concrete news on this story, but there has been little.

One point that is worth picking out of the Chinese report that broke this news story is that one condition is that the Dalai must put a stop to “plotting and inciting violence and stop disrupting and sabotaging the Beijing Olympic Games so as to create conditions for talks” (via BBC). Is this a get out cause should there be any trouble in August in Beijing?

This may be seen as a victory by Tibetan protesters, however it comes at the same time that the Olympic flame is about to embark on it’s assent of Mount Everest; keeping the Olympic torch relay out of Tibet was one of the main objectives of the campaigners.

For more on this news Imagethief succinctly highlights the difference in reporting of this story between CNN and Xinhua (ok, it’s not hard to find differences, but it is a perfect little illustration of the great media debate surrounding the reporting of the Olympi protests) and Simon Elegant delivers a rather depressing ‘realistic’ summary of the obstacles that remain between the two sides and any meaningful progress.

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There is no avoiding the Olympic Torch Protests – Bob is beginning to feel like this is the Beijing Olympics Protests Blog – so anyone wanting to read about something else check out the recent stories about Paula Radcliffe, Oscar Pistorius or the Great Firewall. If you are interested on the high-profile comments that have come following the protests surrounding the Olympic torch relay, read on.

Comments have been a plenty, but who has said what?

The Dalai Lama (via BBC)

Speaking in Tokyo ahead of a visit to the US, the Dalai Lama – who many Tibetans regard as their spiritual leader – said he felt China deserved to host the Games, but that protesters had the right to express themselves in non-violent ways.

Hilary Clinton (via Shanghist)

“These events underscore why I believe the Bush administration has been wrong to downplay human rights in its policy towards China. At this time, and in light of recent events, I believe President Bush should not plan on attending the opening ceremonies in Beijing, absent major changes by the Chinese government.”

Barrack Obama (via BBC)

“Barack Obama has urged US President George W Bush to consider a boycott of the opening of the Beijing Olympics unless China’s rights record improves.”

The EU (via BBC)

“On Thursday, members of the European Parliament will vote on a draft resolution calling on EU leaders to boycott the games if there is no resumption of dialogue between the Chinese authorities and the Dalai Lama.”

The IOC (via BBC)

Some senior and influential figures within the IOC are saying ‘we think it was a mistake, we think the torch relay should have stuck to its original plan’ – that is you light it in Olympia and you it is taken straight to the host city.

China Daily

However, a few “pro-Tibet independence” activists attempted to sabotage the torch relay in London today, which is a serious violation of the Olympic spirit, as the Olympic flame belongs to the world, the spokesman said. The act will surely arouse the resentment of the peace-loving people, and is bound to fail.

Sir Steve Redgrave (via Daily Mail)

Speaking in defence of the Games going to China, and of protesters at the torch relay Redgrave said that protest groups “have the opportunity to make their political points because of the Games going to Beijing. If we all pulled out now, they would not have that chance”.

BOB

Bob would just like to clarify a couple of issues. It has been difficult to write about the protests for a number of reasons, particularly because of ‘labelling’ the people involved. For the record Bob has opted for the phrases ‘pro-Tibet’ and ‘pro-China’ because this is simple, and in line with the general media. It is worth making the point however, that many of those protesting against the Beijing Olympics are in not Tibetan, but one of a number of other groups with a grievance with the Chinese government. Many of them, including ironically the Dalai Lama, are not anti-China either – the Dalai has spoken out in favour of China, and China’s right to host the Olympics, but simply demands more cultural/religious autonomy. Like-wise many of those who fall on the other side of the fence would not consider themselves pro-Chinese, but do not believe that the Olympics is the place for this discussion (Kelly Holmes and Paula Radcliffe for example).

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Some good news for the IOC and BOGOC this week came like a breath of fresh air after the torment of the torch relay; an athlete announced that pollution in Beijing will not be a big problem. Not just any athlete either, but marathon world record holder, and London Olympic torch bearer, Paula Radcliffe.

Paula Radcliffe with Olympic Torch

via the Metro:

“Paula Radcliffe believes pollution in Beijing will not be as big a problem as heat and humidity during the Olympic marathon.

The women’s marathon world record holder, who suffers from asthma, believes the air quality in the Chinese capital will not be the main concern for athletes.

‘It might not even be as bad as everyone thinks because I’m sure the Chinese will do everything they can to reduce the problem,’ said Radcliffe.”

This comes after male marathon world record holder Haile Gabrselassie pulled out of the Olympic marathon because of the threat to his asthma, and is exactly the kind of endorsement the Olympics needed right now.

Also interesting to note that Paula has been speaking out in defence of the Olympics and in criticism of the protesters at the torch relay on the BBC:

“A peaceful protest on the sidelines – fine. But don’t try to stop the torch, because the torch is about more than the Beijing Olympics. It’s about the Olympic spirit and the importance of the Olympics in teaching youth, and teaching the world, what sport can do – how sport can bring people together, how it can overcome suffering, how it has overcome even wars in the past.”

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