Tuesday, April 08, 2008
I had to laugh tonight when I watched the news. Pro-Tibet protesters were demonstrating in Paris as the Olympic torch relay went past. There have been various disruptions to the torch relay already but I take my hat off to the Parisian who fired a fire extinguisher at it!
I sent off a petition to the Chinese ambassador to Australia today, calling on China to dialogue with Tibet and the Dalai Lama and to protect human rights. Hopefully the Chinese will start to take some notice of the collective voice of protesters around the world. They promised the IOC that improving human rights would be one of the things they would do if they were awarded the olympics, but it appears that they have clamped down even further. I was pleased to hear the IOC President Jacques Rogge come out today and call on China to do the right thing in Tibet. Ironically, while governments cowtow to China because of their economic power, the olympics don't have to hold their tongue or be "diplomatic", they've got something China desperately wants and are probably more likely to listen to if they fear the IOC may humiliate them or threaten to take the games off them. (I know that won't happen but the fear of it would be a powerful motivator.)
I'm also impressed with the prime ministers and presidents of a few countries who are planning to boycott the opening ceremony. These sorts of actions have the potential to force China to recognise the voices of protest and respond, the world spotlight is increasingly on Beijing and they can't afford to alienate the rest of the world.
Historical Note: I'm not above a bit of civil disobedience myself. One of my earliest forays was heckling US President Ronald Reagan at a campaign rally in San Diego in 1984.
In the 90's right wing ratbag Pauline Hanson gained a strong following in Australia with her xenophobic ranting and simplistic redneck hysteria. I went to one of her rallies in Perth at Challenge Stadium. There were lots of protesters outside but I decided to buy a ticket and go in, figuring I had a more legitimate right to protest if I listened to what she had to say first. I listened for about half an hour before I started heckling. That action came as a shock to both her and the crowd who were very strongly pro-Hanson, and made me the centre of attention for the security guards who tried to make me leave because I kept calling out. I refused to go, on the grounds that it was a free country, with freedom of speech, and that I'd paid my money and had a right to be there! They weren't happy but they didn't throw me out! And I didn't stop heckling!