Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Beijing Olympics 2008, some final thoughts.

As the Chinese government tries to project the image of a happy and harmless China , with a little help from NBC, the world may watch the Olympic Games in Beijing and see only a rising power and a modern nation. The Chinese have scrubbed, waxed and shined up Beijing for the TV cameras. They have placed handlers with most of the foreign media to keep reporters from finding anyone with a dissenting opinion of the government. However, the real story of China is out there, its just harder to find. For young people who only know China as the place that makes everything we buy, there is another side of China, one the communist government doesn't want you to know about.

If you watched the President attend a state sponsored Baptist church in Beijing, you might get the impression that China is a nation that at least tolerates religious freedom. That is far from the truth. Days before the President attended church in Beijing, Chinese officials detained the head of the country's House Church Alliance. They replaced most of the regular parishioners with government employees. All forms of religion are viewed as a serious threat and when the world isn't looking, any who dare defy the government order to close their church or else, soon find out what 'or else' means.

The Chinese control the access, the information and the message that gets to the outside world. As the world press discovered when they found that all references to protests in Tibet and Tienanmen Square were blocked from the internet. Where else could you hold the Olympics and not have one single protest? Even though the government assured the International Olympic Committee there would be designated areas for protesters and that dissent would tolerated during the games, many Beijing residents who filled out the official government permits to protest were rounded up and jailed.

China is run by a communist, authoritarian government, please remember that. For all the Coca-Cola and McDonald's signs you see on NBC, if you disagree with the government in any public way, your life is in great peril. In the weeks leading up to the Olympic games, the government rounded up hundreds of 'trouble makers' for a nice long vacation in a far off province. Who knows what will really happen to them, they may be 're-educated' and returned or they could just disappear, something all too common in totalitarian countries.

If you are old enough to remember the student protests at Tienanmen Square in Beijing in 1989, you know the image of the one lone student blocking the path of the government tanks.

Lesser known are the photos smuggled out of China showing the carnage and bloodshed of the students when their protest were met with AK-47s and tanks.

I watched that week of protest by the idealistic students with great interest. I remember thinking to myself that after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I was going to see the collapse of another oppressive, cold war foe and the rise of a free China. It was not to be. The small cadre of Communist officials who held power did not want to give up that power or their extravagant lifestyles. They were surrounded by great wealth while most of the country suffered through brutal poverty and government oppression. Never forget this.

As the games come to an end, I will always remember watching the wonderful achievement of our athletes. From the super human feat of Michael Phelps' 8 gold medals to the almost anonymous success of Vincent Hancock who won a gold medal in Double Trap Shooting, we should be truly proud of our athletes for their years of hard work, sacrifice and training. As for the host nation, aside from a successful propaganda campaign, I am not sure they have much to be proud of.

1 comment:

hosikkang said...

correct perspectives...a logntime reader of your blog from Korea