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Hong Kong: Olympic Torch Relay, the Virtual and the Real

The real Olympic torch relay in Hong Kong has been criticized as a political decision as most of the non-athletic torch bearers were from the pro-China political clan. In the street, the Beijing supporters also out-numbered the protesters for human rights. However, in the virtual torch relay organized by local bloggers, the viewpoints are much more diverse.

blogtorch08 banner

The virtual torch relay, blogtorch08, was organized by More than one on April 8, dukedom of Aberdeen wrote:

如果香港要有火炬手,應該找些不是垃圾的運動員,應該找些平民百姓甚至弱勢社群,而不是給那些政治人物或富貴人家來曝光。
我是這樣的想法,你也可以有你的想法。我還是覺得,同一個世界,最好有更多不同的夢想。

If we are to have torch bearers, we shouldn’t invite the junky athletes, we should look for ordinary people or the minorities, not to create a spotlight for the politicians and the rich and powerful celebrities.

This is what I think, you can have your own opinion. I still feel that one world is better to have many diverse dreams.

Up till now, there are more than 70 blog posts. Many of them criticized the arrangement of real torch relay. Ngsezhin pointed out that:

主辦大國以一幫錦衣衛護著那可憐的小火點到處跑。與其說是傳聖火,倒不如說是示威罷?其實這也是有跡可尋。傳聖火的起源不是古代奧運會,而是 1936 年柏林奧運會中希特拉用以宣傳納粹德國的公關手段

The organizing country has a team of torch guards to protect the tiny flame. It is not holy torch relay, but a demonstration. Actually we have historical traces. The Olympic torch relay is not originated from ancient Greek Olympic, but in 1936 by Hitler in the Berlin Olympics. It was used as a public relation strategy by the Nazi.

Nikita also pointed out that the Beijing Olympics has been politicized since the very first day:

中共在申奧時聲稱會改善人權狀況,北京申奧委副主席劉敬民的話:「由北京舉辦奧運會將有助於中國的人權事業發展。」(出處),將政治和體育混為一談的始作俑者是中共當局…

When the Communist Chinese government applied for hosting the Olympics, it promised they would improve the human right condition. The vice chair of Beijing Olympic Committee Liu Jin-min said: “If Beijing hosts the Olympics, it would help the development of human rights in China.” (Source ). The mixture of politics and sport has been debuted from the Chinese government…

Stannum from Sidney talked about the history of Olympic torch relay protest in Australia to explain that there is nothing “Holy” about the torch. Tintin also pointed out that the Chinese translation has missed interpreted “Olympic flame” into “Olympic sacred flame”. Ah Tong followed the discussion and wondered who was the idiot to state the rules that “the Olympic sacred fire shall never be put out, not even for one second”? Singsit referred to ancient Greek mythology and pointed out that the sacred fire is originated from Prometheus’ action against the Gods, stealing fire from heaven:

假如當年普羅米和我們一般的昧著良心,不為正義去挑戰權力,不肯冒險作公民抗命的話,今天,世上還有火可以給舉起來嗎!?討厭那些人一手把人類最重要最寶貴的人權自由都沒收在手裡,然後涎著臉胡說:「聖火」不容侵犯。

If Prometheus had not challenge God’s power and conducted the civil disobedient act according to his faith, do we still have fire for us to uphold today? I hate those people who are repressing the most precious human rights and freedom while insisting that “the sacred flame cannot be offended.”

Richey disagreed with the connection of Olympics and human rights issue and wanted to voice out his discontent towards the people who are using the Olympic as an excuse to force-feed something that is totally irrelevant to the Olympic game.

Daihung made fun of the Olympic torch relay protest and said that Torchsnatching has turned into an official competition in 2008 Beijing Olympics. He even made a poster for this event:

touchsnatching design

Edmund Hui on the other hand tried to figure out how to create an inextinguishable Olympic torch. Harry Potter’s magic is one of his suggestions.

Infilmity noticed that the official name of the 08 torch relay is called “harmonious trip” and he foresaw that news and information regarding the Olympics would be “harmonized”. Technologypark complained about the harmonized measure (deleting photos with pro-Tibet protesters) in mainland China BBS forum and exclaimed that “Let’s all die in Harmony”.

Rosery joined the “Human Right in Tibet” demonstration in London and she was happy that the torch would not past through Taiwan this time.

Heart of Kafka tried to explain the Chinese logic in the Torch relay protect campaign:

中國很辛苦的掙了個資格。現在錢我交了﹐場地我建了﹐你才和我玩杯葛? 還要搶火熄火? 西藏問題這麼多年你不出聲﹐現在就比CCTV更CCTV的說中國的不是?

不過也好﹐西方傳媒與那些連西藏也不知道在哪的示威份子達成了一個中國共產黨也不能做到的目標 – 團結海外華人的”愛國”心。

It is very hard for China to get the entry to the Olympics, now I have paid and built the stadiums and you called for boycott? And you wanted to grab and extinguish my fire? The Tibet issue is always there, now you criticize China with a media worse than CCTV?

Well, western media and those protesters who don’t even know where Tibet is have help the CCP to achieve a goal – united overseas Chinese.

Shadow Cabinet pointed out that the fate of China is still caught in the victim imagination during the war time. It is unreasonable that a strong country would feel threaten by a non-existing country – Tibet.

Back to the real Olympic torch relay in Hong Kong today, Tsang Hin Chi (a pro-China businessman) and Leung Chun-ying (an Executive Council member) are two most controversial figures. Point South supported both for them because their existence is a proof on the political character of the Beijing Olympics.

Chonghead has a summary of today protest action with photos and video clips:

10:35am: Protest Banner action at Tsimshatsiu: One protest banner “Human right repression” was confiscated while another one on “Release Hu Jia” was hanged out at Chungking Mansion during the relay.

release hu jia banner

10:45am: Human rights and free Tibet protesters were surrounded and attacked by pro-China cheering team.

13:00pm: Students’ protest placards were confiscated by police.

16:00pm: A protester was surrounded by cover-up polices who confiscated his protest placards and threatened to arrest him.

30 comments

  • my_mother

    Paren:

    One of thing that was never quite answered among all the “facts” is why did it happen.

    I am quite curious to see what do you think why things happened the way they did. Let me know.

    Best
    Kain

  • Trying to be rational

    I might have misread Paren’s last post regarding which picture s/he was talking about. If so, I apologize.

    To me, the central question is: Was the picture of the man holding the bicycle over his head taken before the kicking picture, or after? Everybody can make his own judgment using the info available in this thread.

  • Paren

    “Anybody who violates the (local) law should be punished by (local) law.”

    So far only one Chinese student was arrested and released on his own recognizance. He’s the fellow delivering a flying kick to the bicylist. The police had little trouble tracking him down since he and his friends wore t-shirts identifying the name of their student organization. Four more are expected to be arrested out of the tens of thousands of students and overseas Chinese who lined the streets during the torch relay, so there’s hardly a witchhunt going on.

    “It is just difficult for me to view this man’s holding a bicycle as a sign of benevolence and innocence. And you have agreed that this photo was taken before the kicking photo.”

    He is surrounded by protestors. It is unlikely that a lone protestor would initiate a physical confrontation with a large group of opposing protestors. It is more likely that a lone protestor would be defending himself.

    “I hope you did not miss the picture showing a bleeding Chinese supporter, probably unrelated to the kicking photo. I just tend to believe that this was not done by some Chinese supporters to frame the Pro-Tibet or NK protesters.”

    He appears not to be present in any of the bicycle photos. He is definitely not the man facing the bicyclist holding the bicycle over his head. All not look same. Maybe his head got whacked during the flag pole fight.

    “I have nothing more to say about this.”

    I respect commenters who concede a point.

    “Sorry, I failed to follow your logic. Your point is…?”

    My point is that I don’t understand why that photo is plastered all over the internet as some kind of proof that the pro-NK refugee activists brought the tool to the demonstration and that it was not thrown at them by a Chinese student.

    “This is pretty bad. It was wrong for the Chinese students/supporters to break the police line. (stupid, too young, too emotional, but) No excuse.”

    I respect you for acknowledging that. Chinese young people are no better or worse than young people elsewhere. Probably the only Asian country that has not experienced a violent demonstration in the last thirty years is North Korea, where nearly all violence is carried out by the state.

    I actually feel sorry to see the international torch relay go sour. I know my Chinese friends are excited about the Olympics coming to China, and I understand why they are upset about the protests.

    I also hope Chinese people can understand that in Korea, as in China, a gesture of remorse goes a long way. The first Chinese student arrested was released partly because he apologized for his behavior. Even if he doesn’t go to jail (likely that he won’t) or get deported (likely that he will), he could never return to complete his studies at the Korean university he was attending.

    Cheers.

  • Paren

    “One of thing that was never quite answered among all the “facts” is why did it happen.”

    Using the word “facts” in parentheses suggests doubt. What “facts” are you uncertain of?

  • Paren

    @Kain,

    What “facts” do you doubt?

  • my_mother

    Paren:

    I don’t doubt the “facts”. I myself said in an earlier post (#6), “We are of no doubt what happened…” There are plenty of photographs and videos circulating around. You yourself provided plenty of links to them.

    It is just that some of the things that surround those photographs and videos quite got answered. That is, why did things happened the way they did?

    And I asked about your take on what gave rise to the things we see in those photographs and videos (#11). I never really did get an answer from you.

    If you have one, let me know.

    Best
    Kain

  • my_mother

    Paren:

    Erratum on paragraph #2 for post 16.

    “It is just that some of the things that surround those photographs and videos quite got answered.”

    Correction:

    “It is just that some of the things that surround those photographs and videos NEVER quite got answered.”

    Anyhow, let me know if you have an answer as to why things happen the way they did.

    Best
    Kain

  • Trying to be rational

    @ Paren,

    My discussion is based on this eyewitness account:
    http://zonaeuropa.com/200805a.brief.htm#004
    (That page has link to the source in Chinese, of the following English translation)

    Here is the eyewitness account from a Chinese living in South Korea. The Korean person with the bicycle was not a passerby. He was a protestor. He went into the plaza where thousands of Chinese were assembled and make protests. The Chinese students saw hm and surrounded him to chant “Go China!” Some students got excited and were about to take more radical action. So I stopped them immediately and I spoke to this protestor in Korean: “If you want to protest, you ought to try to understand China first.” He replied: “Of course, I understand China! I know all about it!” I noticed that he used irreverent language in addressing me (note: there are two forms of speaking in Korean — reverently and irreverently). Since he replied in this manner, I had nothing more to say. At that moment, he began to chant: “Free Tibet!” Upon hearing this, a Chinese student kicked him from behind. The protestor picked up his bicycle and starting swinging it to hit people. Many of the Chinese students dodged the bicycle, and so did I. But one person was hit in the head and bled. Another Chinese student got mad and kicked the protestor. This was the photo that made all the front pages in the Korean media. But the Korean media did not mention a single word about what happened before that moment. Some media even said that the Chinese were assaulting pedestrians.

    You know, when I read “Upon hearing this, a Chinese student kicked him from behind,” I felt very uneasy. Because of this, my *personal* opinion is that it was wrong for that Chinese student to kick the protester, which was, according to that account, the first physical attack. For this, *personally* I think the Chinese students should bear the majority of the blame for this unfortunate event, if that account is accurate.

    This account is reasonable to me. So my understanding is:
    (1) Man shouted “Free Tibet”;
    –> (2) A Chinese student kicked him from behind (conflict escalated, and see my earlier comments);
    –> (3) Man raised his bicycle to use it as a tool to fight back (another escalation);
    –> (4) Another Chinese fly-kicked the man (yet another escalation, the famous picture).

    You said “It is more likely that a lone protestor would be defending himself.” The above account said “The protestor picked up his bicycle and starting swinging it to hit people. Many of the Chinese students dodged the bicycle, and so did I. But one person was hit in the head and bled.” My *personal* interpretation is that the man over-reacted a bit (conflict escalation). Swinging something like the bicycle shown in the picture is quite menacing. So came yet another conflict escalation, a Chinese student fly-kicked the man, and hence the famous picture.

    The kicking picture looks very ugly. It was natural for me to look for a more complete description of what happened. Reporting that picture only, perhaps even with some misleading info, only serves the purposes of a small group of people, and does harm to the majority of the people in the world.

    Anyway, so it looks like that you and I still disagree on how to look at this event.

    > “I have nothing more to say about this.”
    >
    > I respect commenters who concede a point.

    Sorry for not making myself clear. I meant I insisted on my original stand.

    > My point is that I don’t understand why that photo is plastered all over the internet as some kind of proof that the pro-NK refugee activists brought the tool to the demonstration and that it was not thrown at them by a Chinese student.

    I never said that the tools were not used by any Chinese students to throw at any Pro-NK or Pro-Tibet protesters, because I do not know.

    To me, the most important questions are:
    Why were the pincer and the stone in the street in the first place? What was the intention of the people who brought them in?

    The next important questions are:
    What did the media and netizens do to the pincer and stone (we have seen this in the media and on the Internet, haven’t we)? Fair use for the purpose of objectively informing people of what happened, or selective reporting to serve the purposes of a certain group of people? In reality, what effects were achieved?

    This question is of course also important:
    How were these tools actually utilized in the street? We have some pictures of how some people used the pincer and stone during the event. I have not seen any pictures showing who used the pincer or the stone to attack whom. Ok, show me a picture of a Chinese supporter using the pincer/stone to attack the protesters, and I will take that into consideration too.

    We only have the available pictures for our use in our attempt to find out what happened during the event.

    For the pictures under discussion, to me, annotating does not reduce the credibility of the pictures. Perhaps you were concerned about the smallness of some images as a result of cramming too many pictures into one. I was/am too. But there are some larger resolution pictures later on in that thread. I think the annotation did help me understand the situation.

    Obviously, on this topic we still disagree, wildly.

    BTW, when I do not respond to certain comments, it means one of the following two cases: (1) I do not agree, but it is not worth responding/ not worth my time. (2) I agree, but I do not think I have more substance to contribute to the discussion. I just want to let you know that I agree with and respect some of your comments, although I did not specifically singled them out.

  • Paren

    @Trying to be rational:

    The problem with the eyewitness account is that it’s not supported by photographic evidence. There was more than one person photographing the encounter yet not one photo of the man swinging the bicycle, people ducking, or anyone getting hit. If, indeed, a Chinese student kicked the man first and the man picked up the bicycle, then he was defending himself against a hostile crowd. Mature adults don’t kick someone for saying something they don’t like. In Korea, it is not unusual for middle-aged people to speak to younger people in informal language, or banmal. I was spoken to in banmal on many occasions, sometimes in an angry or insulting manner, and I never kicked anybody.

    “Sorry for not making myself clear. I meant I insisted on my original stand.”

    It’s always good to stand by your beliefs even when evidence doesn’t support it.

    “I never said that the tools were not used by any Chinese students to throw at any Pro-NK or Pro-Tibet protesters, because I do not know.”

    You linked to the photographs as evidence, and that allegation is written on the photographs and accompanying text.

    Kain wrote:

    “Anyhow, let me know if you have an answer as to why things happen the way they did.”

    It’s best not to ad lib.

  • Trying to be rational

    @ Paren:

    Yes, too bad the Chinese students do not have photos to defend themselves. You know what, or you may already know, the “journalists” and “protesters” were more professional than the young Chinese students in grasping every opportunity to take pictures of things that interest them the most. And yes, I believe this is one aspect of the whole thing. As for the Chinese students around the man, I think I would try to dodge the bicycle to avoid being hurt before I can think about taking pictures — that takes a professional to do it. And yes, that account claimed somebody got hurt by the bicycle, but unfortunately, we have not seen supporting pictures yet, bad for that guy who got hurt, and bad for the Chinese students. That account is the only account I know of regarding the kicking picture (true of false is subject to debate). Any other accounts attempting to give a fair and balance description of what happened? Is it because that picture really is everything and there is nothing else to tell, or some people just do not want to talk about what happened just before that kicking picture? But you insist on photos, and it seems that you are unwilling to discuss any further beyond photos, understood. Meanwhile, I make my own judgments about what is reasonable in the information presented to me.

    > “I never said that the tools were not used by any Chinese students to throw at any Pro-NK or Pro-Tibet protesters, because I do not know.”
    >
    > You linked to the photographs as evidence, and that allegation is written on the photographs and accompanying text.

    I did not expect that you interpreted my writing this way. I am sorry for either my writing or your comprehension. I am still investigating what parts of those photographs and stories as annotated can be trusted, and what parts cannot.

    Now, show me a picture showing Chinese students using that pincer or that stone to attack anybody. Isn’t this the people who showed the pincer-stone picture to the whole world trying to convey to the world?

    Yeah, before I see any picture proving that Chinese students brought in the pincer and the stone, or showing Chinese students using the pincer or stone to attack anybody, I declare the whole pincer-stone play as a dirty despicable shameless frame-up. We want photos, don’t we?

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