April 11, 2008

Special (Forces) Olympics

Hatched by Sachi

The Olympic torch came to San Francisco yesterday -- and quickly departed, leaving nary a trace.

The City of Brother Love wanted to avoid the violent disturbances experienced in Paris and London, as pro-Tibet protesters used the occasion to draw attention to China's nearly six-decade occupation of that country. So San Francisco changed the torch-bearers' route,
bypassing protesters and potential spectators alike:

The nation’s only chance to see the Olympic flame up close became an elaborate game of hide-and-seek here on Wednesday, as city officials secretly rerouted the planned torch relay, swarmed its runners with blankets of security and then whisked the torch to the airport in a heavily guarded motorcade....

Just before the flame’s planned debut, the police along the announced route put on riot gear, seemingly in expectation of the flame’s arrival.

Mayor Gavin Newsom said the decision to change the route was made shortly after the torch was lighted outside AT&T Park, when it was briefly held aloft by Chinese Olympic officials and then promptly taken into a waterfront warehouse....

"It was a simple decision," Mr. Newsom said. "Do we cancel the event or do we change the event to assure the safety and security of the torchbearers?"

The whole point of Olympic torch is to celebrate the upcoming Olympics; if the people are intentionally prevented from seeing it, then what is the point of having a torch-bearing ceremony in the first place? They should have simply cancelled the event, rather than waste taxpayer's money for an elaborately secured farce.

But there is a more significant issue here than liberal obtuseness. Notice, in the photos below, several Chinese-looking men in blue track suits running alongside of the torch bearer: Although the New York Times says nothing about it -- and are probably not even aware of the controversy -- I believe these runners are members of Chinese paramilitary police unit, sent by the Chinese government to protect the torch flame.

According to the London Times, these paramilitaries have been traveling with the torch all over the world; their presence was witnessed in Paris and London this past week, for example:

China's blue-clad flame attendants, whose aggressive methods of safeguarding the Olympic torch have provoked international outcry, are paramilitary police from a force spun off from the country’s army.

The squad of 30 young men from the police academy that turns out the cream of the paramilitary security force has the job at home of ensuring riot control, domestic stability and the protection of diplomats.

Compare these two photos, the one on the left from San Francisco, the one on the right from either London or Paris:

Paramilitaries in San Francisco    Paramilitaries In Europe

Chinese paramilitary police in San Francisco (L) and London (R)

The problem is that unlike the civilized European and American police, these Chinese paramilitaries act as if they are at war; they have no regard for freedom of speech no tolerance of dissent, no matter where they happen to be. They have strongarmed protesters and bystanders alike and have even peremptorily ordered the torch bearers around, as if they were already in Beijing (an ominious sign of things to come when the athletes are actually in Beijing):

The Olympic medallist and organiser of the 2012 Games [Lord Sebastian Coe] was overheard saying that the officials had pushed him around as the torch made its way through the capital on Sunday. He added that other countries on the route should "get rid of those guys".

"They tried to punch me out of the way three times. They are horrible. They did not speak English . . . I think they were thugs."

His comments came after Konnie Huq, the former Blue Peter presenter, who was one of the torchbearers on Sunday, described how she had seen the officials in "skirmishes" with the police.

Ms Huq, who was carrying the torch when a pro-Tibet activist tried to snatch the flame, said of the guards: "They were very robotic, full-on . . . They were barking orders like 'run' and 'stop' and I was like, 'Who are these people?'."

The obvious question is, Who authorized their activity? The UK government must have known about them, but evidently, they didn't tell Parliament; and the Tories are demanding clarification from the Government:

David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, wrote yesterday to Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, seeking clarification of the role of the Chinese officials. Mr Davis asked: "Who in the British Government authorised their presence and what checks were made as to their background?"

The London Times says that 30 of these paramilitaries were sent overseas to follow the torch from city to city, while other graduates of the same academy had a slightly different assignment:

Less than a year ago these mysterious “men in blue” were elite students from China’s Armed Police Academy and were selected amid great fanfare to form the grandly titled Sacred Flame Protection Unit.

In China, tens of thousands of their paramilitary colleagues have been deployed across Tibetan areas to restore order during riots, even opening fire when the antiChinese demonstrations have threatened to run out of control again.

Although these "guardians of the flame" appear to have been in San Francisco as well, the city’s decision to reroute the relay avoided any confrontation between protesters and the Chinese security force. But in Australia, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that these Chinese torch guardians were not welcome in the torch parade at all:

Chinese paramilitary police will not be allowed to run alongside the Olympic torch in Australia, the country's prime minister said Thursday, after their heavy-handed tactics drew criticism in earlier legs of the relay.

The men in bright blue tracksuits were dispatched by Beijing to guard the Olympic flame on its journey around the world. They sparked concern in London and Paris, with the top official for the 2012 London Olympics calling them "thugs."

The torch is scheduled to pass through the Australian capital of Canberra on April 24, but the Chinese security agents escorting it will have to travel in a bus during the relay, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said.

The torch is now headed to South America. It will eventualy go to Nagano, Japan, where the city has also announced that they will not let the Chinese guards run alongside the Olympic torch (I believe Japan Probe is a blogsite):

National Public Safety Commission Chairman Shinya Izumi indicated on Friday that Japan will not welcome "security runners" from China to accompany the Olympic torch when it arrives in Nagano if their role is to serve as guards.

Of course, Nagano is not keen on the protesters, either:

The National Police Agency announced today that it is planning to use the "hooligan provision" of immigration law to prevent radical anti-China activists from entering Japan and holding protests in Nagano. It has also been announced that the initial security force plan of about 500 Nagano police officers and 1,000 private security guards will be boosted to an unspecified number.

The Olympic torch is a very important symbol with a very specific meaning -- that nations can transcend politics to allow the people of the world to come together in a celebration of individual achievement in sport. It's telling that the Red Chinese government chose to protect that symbol with thuggish paramilitary troops. But by doing so, they have only revealed how oppressive and totalitarian is their own government, and how cowed is their culture and population.

For China, the Olympics were supposed to validate their status as a "modern country." Instead, the runup to the games has focused the world's attention on the barbarity of Chinese Communism. The neo-Maoists can no longer hide behind their inscrutable expressions or pretend that the Tiananmen Square massacre was an out-of-character, one-time fluke.

The world has belatedly realized that China is not up to the civilized standard. But why didn't the International Olympic Committee figure this out seven years ago, when they decided to award the Olympics to Beijing... instead of Toronto, Paris, or Istanbul; or if the IOC was determined that the Olympics should be in the Far East, then why did they so quickly eliminate Osaka, the second largest city in Japan, which had successfully held a World's Fair nearly four decades ago in 1970?

Dafydd responds...

I believe the answer to Sachi's question is one word: appeasement. Appeasement occurs when you reward a dangerous person or country in advance, hoping it will be satisfied and will refrain from causing trouble... rather than waiting to see what it does, then either rewarding or punishing it accordingly.

The People's Republic of China has coveted two things for a number of years: an Olympic games, which they have tried to get since the 1980s, and membership in the World Trade Organization, which they've demanded since it was founded in 1995.

Despite the fact that China really had not demonstrated that they were ready for either "plum," the typically liberal mindset of both the IOC and the WTO (echoed by the Bush administration, alas) held that the best way to move them towards civilized behavior would be to give them the rewards first -- to appease them. I suppose the idea is that the only reason China strictly controls its markets, oppresses and brutalizes Tibet, bullies its neighbors, threatens our allies like Japan, and terrorizes its own citizens is that they're upset at not being treated better by the rest of the world.

They bid for the 2000 Olympics, leading through most rounds of the 1993 voting. When Sydney, Australia ended up winning instead, the Chinese pitched a terrible fit. I'm sure that played a big part in the decision by the IOC in July 2001 to give them the 2008 Olympics. I'm sure they wanted to mollify China for the "snub" of 1993, and they thought giving in would make the PRC less aggressive. Instead, they're rampaging across Tibet and sending paramilitaries to bully citizens of other countries.

Then in December of that same year, 2001, the WTO voted China membership -- despite China not meeting the minimial WTO requirements of openness, transparency, and connectivity -- presumably on the theory that being in the organization would all by itself reform China's socialist and protectionist policies. Yet as recently as the administration's report to Congress in December 2007, the best the president could say is:

In 2007, U.S. industry began to focus less on the implementation of specific commitments that China made upon entering the WTO and more on China’s shortcomings in observing basic obligations of WTO membership as well as Chinese policies and practices that undermine previously implemented commitments....

At the root of many of these problems is China’s continued pursuit of problematic industrial policies that rely on excessive Chinese government intervention in the market through an array of trade-distorting measures. This government intervention, evident in many areas of China’s economy, is a reflection of China’s historic yet unfinished transition from a centrally planned economy to a free-market economy governed by rule of law. As another major trade association explained in its written comments, "[t]he legacies of China’s command economy continue to be a drag on China’s complete integration into the global economy and, as a result, cause a variety of problems for China’s trading partners."

For that matter, six years after China became a WTO member, I think it has not even allowed the value of its currency to be set by the international currency-exchange markets -- which was supposed to be an absolute requirement for WTO membership that all other countries had to accept before they could become members. As usual, China is granted exceptional dispensation.

It still may be on balance more good than bad that the PRC is a member of the WTO; but the idea that membership alone would improve their behavior was utopian, in my opinion -- the same kind of utopianism that says the root cause of violent behavior of some public-school students is that they don't have a high enough opinion of themselves (!), so they need "self-esteem" programs.

Once again, the most fundamental aspects of human nature elude liberals (and evidently even "compassionate conservatives," at least occasionally):

Once the bad guy has everything he wants, you no longer have any leverage over him; and you only have his word that he will keep his promises to you.

Let's hope that someday we actually learn that lesson. It has a number of applications, which are left as an exercise to the discerning reader.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 11, 2008, at the time of 5:32 PM

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The following hissed in response by: nk

I can't believe that you guys are taking the side of the thugs and hooligans who want to disrupt the torch relay by violence. Very simple principle involved here, "Don't touch what does not belong to you".

As for Tibet, it was barely in the first millenium AD when Communist China intervened in 1951. A feudal theocracy with most of the population as serfs to the monasteries and warlords, and the nomads kind of like the Huns. Totalitarian Communism is not the best thing that could have happened to it but it is a great deal better than what it had before.

The above hissed in response by: nk [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 11, 2008 8:52 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


I can't believe that you guys are taking the side of the thugs and hooligans who want to disrupt the torch relay by violence.

I wasn't aware we were.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 11, 2008 9:38 PM

The following hissed in response by: nk

In light of all the stories of protesters trying to take away the torch, the flame being extinguished several times as result already, a relay runner in a wheelchair actually battered, Sachi deploring only the Chicom torchguards' thuggishness does give that implication.

Not to dwell on past glories, but originally the Olympic Games were a few days during which the Greeks would stop killing each other and gather to celebrate youth, strength, health and beauty (poetry and music were also events). Oh, well.

The above hissed in response by: nk [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2008 5:58 AM

The following hissed in response by: Seaberry

The so-called pro-Tibet protesters are the ones who end up looking like morons...looking like the 'Threat'.

The above hissed in response by: Seaberry [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2008 6:17 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

Nk, Seaberry:

Sorry, I completely disagree that the protesters are in the same league as the Communist paramilitaries.

Yes, the torch bearers (and the torch) should be protected; yes, the host country (Red China) has primary responsibility for protecting it. But...

The way they chose to do so not only didn't alleviate the problem, it exacerbated it. It brought it to the boiling point!

What the protesters are angry about is the Chinese occupation and continued butchery of Tibetans, not the Olympics per se. But sending what everybody knows are elite Chinese paramilitary police from the very unit that is shooting hundreds of Tibetans and has already killed scores of them -- and who are behaving in a brutal manner even in the foreign countries where the torch is being run -- is waving a red flag at the protesters. It's an in-your-face celebration of Chinese regional hegemony and savagery that is certain to produce exactly the response it has... and to which the Communists point, as they have everywhere else, to "prove" ex post facto that their brutality was necessary.

Don't you guys understand that the ChiComs knew exactly what they were doing when they sent that company of more than a hundred military personnel, with orders to rough up anybody who got within ten feet of the torch -- including Baron Coe? Don't you realize they knew exactly what the reaction of the protesters would be, and how they could turn that to their political advantage, playing the victim card even as they victimize their slave-state of Tibet?

This is what Communists do; subversion is one of their best things; and you folks are playing right into their hand.

Nk, you previously characterized the Tibetans as "a feudal theocracy with most of the population as serfs to the monasteries and warlords, and the nomads kind of like the Huns." Then you contrasted them unfavorably with the Communists:

Totalitarian Communism is not the best thing that could have happened to it but it is a great deal better than what it had before.

In context, you clearly meant this not just as a condemnation of the protesters but as a justification for the Communist conquest of Tibet itself in 1950.

Breaking it down, you are saying that a group of primitive people who were, by all accounts other than the ChiComs', content with their feudal life, and who clearly did not seek to export their way of life to anyone else, deserve to be occupied, butchered, genocided, and the survivors enslaved by a vicious, expansionist, violently dangerous Maoist totalitarian dictatorship that threatens the world with nuclear missiles, arms psychotic states like North Korea and Iran, and recently forced down and kidnapped a planeful of American service members -- then tried to ransom them.

I don't think you have really thought this through, either of you... no conservative could really believe that.

Take a step back from the immediacy of the protests and look at who they are protesting -- and why. Then ask why the Chinese did what no other host country has ever done: Sneak in their own company of Schutzstaffel (without bothering to inform the local government what they really were) to beat the hell out of protesters... not just those aggressively attacking the torch, but even those just holding up signs that say "Free Tibet." Heck, even the torch-bearers themselves were slapped around by the Communists.

And there's one more tidbit Sachi just discovered, which will blow your minds. She's going to write about it later today; and when she does, I think everything will suddenly click into focus. I won't say more than that, but keep watching this space.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2008 4:19 PM

The following hissed in response by: nk

In context, you clearly meant this not just as a condemnation of the protesters but as a justification for the Communist conquest of Tibet itself in 1950.

Yes, definitely. Communist China is a prison but pre-Communist Tibet was an oubliette -- a hole in which a whole people were buried alive. Where, for just one example, infanticide on little girls was so extensive that polyandry was common -- three husbands or more per woman.

As for "Communist conquest", Tibet was a part of China. Its "autonomy" came about because of China's chaotic state. Once the civil wars were over, the Japanese kicked out and the country unified and secure, China reasserted its authority.

I am no friend of Communist China or of communism generally. I am an American and American democracy (representative republic for the sticklers) is my ideal. But communism has shown itself to be a historical footnote limited pretty much to the twentieth century; whereas theocracy and feudalism are cancers which have infected the world since the first pharaohs, which can reappear anywhere and any time, and which, in the variation of Islamic jihad, we are at war with right now.

The above hissed in response by: nk [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2008 6:27 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


I shall leave for posterity the decision of whose analogy is more apt: Mine comparing Maoists to Nazis -- or yours comparing Tibetan monks to the militant Islamists who brought us 9/11.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 12, 2008 11:41 PM

The following hissed in response by: Seaberry


Tibet has a long history...a history that includes its own empire building. Tibet is now clearly a part of China, and no amount of protesting can change that.

After WW2, China clearly decided to secure its borders…after things like these - First (1894-95) and Second (1931-1945) Sino-Japanese War, Menacing countries like England, Russia and Nepāl looking for control of or a stake in Tibet. China needed control of Tibet…think “Location Location Location”.

(BTW, I did see Sachi’s new thread – Very Interesting, though not surprising with what all has been and is going on in China, i.e. outside influences trying to use the Olympics as a way to make China look bad.)

The pro-Tibet protesters were and still are looking for trouble, and I’m sure they get plenty of help from governments like our own. Sorry, but I was looking forward to the Olympics…not some Jimmy “The Mullah” Carter’s version of them.

The above hissed in response by: Seaberry [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 13, 2008 6:23 AM

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