Changing China

Giant on the move

This is normal, it happens in all countries…

April 1, 2008

It arrived.

Chinese President Hu hands the Olympic torch to Liu Xiang in Beijing

Some 5,000 VIPs, cheering workers and media gathered on Tiananmen Square on Monday to welcome the Beijing Olympic flame and launch the 137,000-km torch relay.

Predictably, security on the square was tight. 

The 600 reporters, photographers and television crews were bused from the Olympic media centre some four hours before the flame made an appearance.

As with all Chinese security checks, there were inconsistencies. The metal cigarette lighter in my pocket was confiscated, for example,  but the cheap plastic one in my bag made it through. Many of the security officials themselves were smoking, perhaps they got a light from the flame.

“This is normal, this happens in all countries,” said the policeman who insisted I give up the lighter.  

We sat in the spring sunshine waiting for the party to arrive from the airport, and for President Hu Jintao and the other top Communist Party officials to make their way across the road from their Zhongnanhai compound.

Confetti and balloons are released during Olympic torch ceremony in Beijing

The song “One world, One dream” was played on loop to keep our spirits up as model workers and students in colour-coordinated uniforms waved red pom-poms and fans towards the huge portrait of Chairman Mao that overlooks the square.

Bored, I thought I would try and find out just how many security staff were involved in the operation.

“This is normal, this happens in all countries,” said the policeman I asked, echoing his colleague word-for-word and seeming to think I was challenging the legitimacy of the security operation.

I said that I understood that with China’s president due to arrive shortly, some kind of security was necessary. But how many people were involved?

“You can count them yourself,” he said with a shrug.  

The uninvited were kept at a distance, physically by cordons around the square and temporally by a one-minute delay on the television signal.

Hundreds had already gathered behind the cordons by the time the media arrived and thousands were still milling around when I left the square.  Tiananmen Square

The ceremony was spectacular. The acrobats and dancers were colourfully clothed and superbly drilled. The climax, when President Hu declared the torch relay open, was an explosion of confetti, doves and balloons.

It’s just a shame so few Chinese were able to witness it live. There was plenty of room. Take a look at our slide show.

Pictures of Hu Jintao, Liu Xiang and the Olympic flame and the climax of the ceremony by Claro Cortes IV.


Here is a video I took about an hour before the ceremony: o8


I have watched your video, the security absolutely tight! we do believe it necessary! cosidered all the harsh situation we met recently! “somebody” really take advantage of the game to do harm to our country! we keepng alert! we are ready to fight back any enemies under any circumstance!

Posted by tony | Report as abusive

They were lighting a torch and won’t let a cigarette lighter in ? Isn’t that exactly what the Chinese saying:”Only let the officials set a fire, and won’t let the people light up a lamp” ? History just repeated itself, with plenty of warning…

Posted by Bill | Report as abusive

Dear Nick,
This report is just an April Fool day joke, isn’t it? The differences in security that is, ie; the “all Chinese security checks, there were inconsistencies. The metal cigarette lighter in my pocket was confiscated, … the cheap plastic one in my bag made it through. ….the security officials themselves were smoking,”. It appears the left hand is not sure what the right hand is doing and visa versa. Let’s hope the Chinese govt are “keepng alert! … are ready to fight back any enemies under any circumstance!”. (Including those protesters against human rights abuses). Just think when the Olympics are all over the communist govt won’t have to keep saying “yeh we’ll improve human rights soon…soon…” and get back to what it wasn’t and probably never intended on doing.

Posted by Conscientious Observer | Report as abusive

I am an American Expat living in Hong Kong and I am getting tired of all of the China bashing going on about Tibet. Unless the USA is prepared to give California and Texas back to the Mexicans, or better yet, Guam back to the Spanish, and Britain is ready to give the Falkans back to the Argentines and Northern Ireland back to Irish, they should all shut up! Tibet was a spoil of war, like it or not they are under China control. Protesting and violence are not going to change that. All of this critisizm about the deaths during the protests and all the arson, was not caused by the Red Army. It was caused by the protesters. Can any one read any more? Why are we so eager to believe the propoganda and agenda from America and England. We just love to create sh1t in other peoples countries and take the attention away from our own doings.

When over 150,000 people died in Iraq this decade along with 4000 dead US soldiers, and 26,000 US soldiers injured, how can we possibly think that violence and threats are going to solve anything in Tibet. The protesters are hurting their own country.

Posted by Troy | Report as abusive

I’m with Troy. As someone who has lived and worked in China, and is married to a Han Chinese, I find it absurd how much vehemence people have for the Chinese with very little understanding of the historical situation or the culture.

Troy, I think Hawaii and Alaska should be given back to their native peoples too, since it’s legitimate to demand that soverign nations give up their legally held territories for no particular reason than political slights perceived by outsiders.

Posted by Da6d | Report as abusive

Sorry Troy can’t agree with you there. Britian gave Hong Kong back and made it better; before that the people had a right to religious freedom, to protest, to disagree with what the government was doing. Most important the culture was kept intact. You didn’t have droves of English migrating to Hong Kong and re-educating the people, and if they disagreed putting them in jail and destroying their monestaries. This is what is happening in Tibet. You have hundreds of thousands of displaced 3rd generation Tibetian children in Nepal who didn’t do anything but cannot return back to their home country because China won’t let them and they can’t become Nepalese citizians because the Nepalese government does not see them as equal. Then you have millions of Han Chinese moving to Tibet making a once mountainous region into a commercial city destroying Tibetian culture and trying to assimilate it into Chinese culture. The people have had enough. I don’t think they are looking for freedom but more autonomy.

America gave Puerto Rico a degree of Autonomy. Yes we took the land from the Indians and I don’t agree with that, but in the 21rst I bet my life that America won’t try to expand its borders without being severly protested against. People protest the Iraq war and because we protested and have a right to vote and freedom of expression next year our soilders are coming back home.

I’m living in Shanghai and I think China is a nice place to be. For the most part I like and respect Chinese people but China’s Human Rights is just plain wrong. If you want to become a world power there is a certain amount of responsibility you must take. You must be a good example to the world. Its like an ordinary person becoming a super star. Once he becomes a superstar he doesn’t do what he used to do when he was ordinary. He becomes an example for others. Beating up monks is not a good example if the monks were wrong.
And sorry but I refuse to believe that the majority of Tibetan Monks are mindless maniacs looting and killing for no justifiable reason. Troy and Da6d if you think China is so great why don’t you renounce your citizenship and get a Chinese passport and become a Tibetian monk

Posted by Silent Observer | Report as abusive

I am a Thai living in Bangkok.Having read all the news about Beijin Olympic,I think the western media are not impartial, dislike the chinese and trying to demonise them for certain undiscloseable agenda which could be either immoral or political.The media acting like the enemy of china and they will in turn have chinese as their own enemy sooner or later.This is not the process of building peace or democracy,rather it is building hatred and wars.

Posted by Sam Vitel | Report as abusive

Conscientious Observer and all other writers here, would you please search an article named “Risky Geopolitical Game: Washington Plays ‘Tibet Roulette’ with China” in the site globalresearch.

I am considering how many Tibetains outside China… They don’t need to work? How can they follow the torch relay everywhere of the world? Who is behind them? All documents in this article answer my question: who is behind all these turmoil: the US.

I have another link in French. However, I think most of you can’t undertand french, so ..

Posted by philippe | Report as abusive

I am a Chinese living in the US. I do agree that there is much work to do in China, in human right issues, in freedom of speech, etc.

However, I also think Chinese government should deserve the credits of building schools, transportation system, and economy in Tibet and other parts of China. Tibet used to have slavery, and was extremely poor – the Tibetans are now much better off in living condition, and in being free of slavery themselves. Chinese government do not ban religion; it just doesn’t encourage it. It does not prosecute people from choosing religion.

I do believe that Chinese government welcomes constructive criticism, and will be open to discuss how we can make it better. However, malicious attacks are not the way to improve whatever issues China may have. China does not tell the US government how to run the country. Why do the US feel the need to intervene anyway possible? There has to be a reason behind it, and the reason may well be its own political interest in the global stage.

I can read media from both sides, and I have to say, many US/European media have been very one-sided, some even malicious – not at all having the integraty of journalism. I do hope that Americans can be more open-minded in seeing that everything has two sides.

Posted by Joanne | Report as abusive

I’m a Han chinese student. I can not agree with Silent Observer.

We call Tibet “Xi’zang Autonomous Region” in chinese. That means the top officer, the president of the Autonomous Region, must be a Tibetan. If Dalai did not rise and leave China, it is every probability of his life, to be the Vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference as a patriotic Tibetan leader. But he did not settle for that, he wants to keep his top prerogative in Tibet not only in religions but also in politics. Do you know his prerogative before 1959 as a slave-owner? He could use things made from slaves’ bone and skin,and he still uses these nowdays. What he said is the law in Tibet. People called him “Huofo” that means living God in Chinese. What he did recently is for getting back the top power in Tibet,not for the people in Tibet.The monks in tibet we call them “the Mi denomination”, they do not like monks in most of China as “the Chan denomination”. They were cleared away from Tibetan goverment at the separation movement of church and state in 1959. Some of them became religiosity monks just like Banchan Lama, the 2nd spiritual leader in Tibet.But some of them still thirst for kaiserdom. They kill have a reason, for political profit.

You said Han Chinese moving to Tibet making a once mountainous region into a commercial city destroying Tibetian culture and trying to assimilate it into Chinese culture. It is ridiculous! Is it happy to you that Tibet be a poor blindness and people starve to death every year only for being a original culture museum for your westen people? If it is true, where is the Indian culture in the U.S? You really do not care what is Tibetan wanted! They want live better like a free men, not slaves. In China, if you want to go some provinces or Autonomous Regions,you can go freely. Tibet has good environment, better salary and prosperous tourism.

I think the soul of civilization is to syncretize. We have a long history, more than 1200 years, on this.
Human Rights? What beautiful words! The people talking about China’s HR should be the 1,300,000,000 chinese, including Tibetan. Arresting some monks, becase they killed or injured people and breaked the law. It is right in every civilized country.

I love China more my life and allow nobody hurt her, becase this is the place we called home,becase we keep our peaceful life and make it better only under her asylum. Stop haughty Prejudice, it will injure both!

Posted by Tianxiaweigong | Report as abusive

to “Joanne”

And China hasn’t been one-sided? The television is basically telling the Chinese to hate Tibetians and Uilgers. Do you ever consider that maybe the Tibetians don’t want these schools or buildings that China has given them?

Posted by silent observer | Report as abusive

Not saying that China is not great. But if China is AS great as it says it is why are people emigrating in droves to other countries to be citizens? I don’t understand that. The nationalism needs to stop…I hate when people say “We Chinese”. How can it be “one world one dream” when you say “We Chinese”? Why can’t Tibetians say “We Tibetians”. Ethnically they are not Chinese they are Tibetian and thats what needs to be respected. Respect their culture.

Posted by silent observer | Report as abusive

Freedom loving people around the world are not anti-Chinese , we are anti-communist . We hope that the Chinese people will at some point peacefully choose a better system of government than “the dictatorship of the proletariat” . We hope the ‘Communist dictatorship’ will be wise enough to allow this without a bloodbath . Unfortunately , communist regimes (and autocrats in general) are loathe to give up power peacefully unless the government is bankrupt .

Posted by Andy | Report as abusive

Its rather revolting to witness violent protest and riots in Tibet by Tibetans against Han Chinese in Lhasa. I have Never been to China and had lived more than ten years in England/the West. Its simply unacceptable to me to show sympathy towards the perpetrators which are simply Buddhist Hooligans by allegedly peaceful Monks. I agree and support fully China’s amazingly restrained handling of the affair. Tibet is Forever Chinese!!

Posted by Carl Hurle | Report as abusive

Andy: ‘Freedom loving people around the world are not anti-Chinese , we are anti-communist .’
I belive you are good man and have good will to China? but unfortunately, you are an odd and also not the representive of ‘Freedom-loving people’. Something seriously go wrong with lots of ‘freedom-loving’ people. Here I won’t mention what is happening in Iraq. I only want to ask why some of the ‘Freedom-loving’ people are loving to make lies and belive in apparent lies. Is the cause of ‘freedom’ not strong enough to win the heart of people? if the ‘freedom-loving’ people do believe the freedom they are chasing is what everyone truely want, why do they need lies to defend themseleves. After being in USA for 10 years, I am completely pissed off by what happened everyday here on lots of media, not only on the Tibet problem but lots of other problems (Iraq, Obama & Hillary, and so on). Some people simply are too proud to think and positively learn things they don’t know.

Posted by orsino | Report as abusive

I could probably write a 10,000 word reply on this topic, but Ill try and be brief!

I have lived and worked in China since 2006, and have a Chinese girlfriend.

I dont always like government policy, and dont always agree with it. But China cant be compared to other countries. Ignore the recent development. Ignore the common talk about China’s rise as a super-power. And when you ignore these things, then you can ignore some of the Western ideas we have for how China should be.

As far as Tibet, I dont know many Tibetans, but I would be fairly sure that most Tibetans, like most Chinese, dont care about preserving culture, they just want a TV, a home, education, and to dream of owning a car. These things we all take for granted is all many simple Chinese (and probably Tibetans) dream of.

The preservation of culture is something we want, we in the West, and something the rich Tibetans in exile already have. Common people probably dont share these ideas. Even ignoring the oft ridiculous rheotoric from the government, I think most people at grass roots level only want to improve their simple lives. Its easy for us to deny them that from our lofty positions.

And despite the parties faults, and I see many, every day. How should one govern 1.3 billion people? With total freedom and access to everything? Impossible here!

Millions and millions of Chinese live below the world poverty line. Just as many millions cannot speak any Mandarin Chinese. And just as many who can speak Mandarin Chinese, cant speak to each other as they dont understand each other!

When you live at grass roots level here, away from the big cities, you see how life really is. All these freedoms and ideals that we impose or wish for China are still decades and decades away.

They have systems of belief in modern culture that mean we should throw away the rule book when trying to suggest ways to improve their lot.

I have also lived in rural Africa, and in my experience, many elements in their poverty led society are still years ahead of China. Ignore the money, a developed country is about the people and the way they think, and live their day to day lives.

I dont think China will ever truly be a developed country in my lifetime, there is still far to much work to be done, but we cant see past the financial side of development.

And to complete the African comparison, the HIV/Aids timebomb is still ticking here, and I predict it will explode in the next 10-20 years.

You cant give freedom here, and all the things we associate with democracy in the West. The people just arent ready for it, maybe the next generation will be, but certainly not yet.

The Government here has so many faults, so many. But I feel they are stepping in the right direction.

Posted by LivinginChina | Report as abusive

I agree with “living in China”

Posted by silent observer | Report as abusive

I’m a Chinese in an inaccessible area of central China. I do understand WHY USA wants use Xizang issue to split China, can not figure out WHY FRANCE follows it so closely? What can France get if Xizang became a nation? Everyone knows USA wants police the world,China is a big challendge for them in future,Oopse,France?it’s a so small country,CHINA never regards France as an archrival at all,China has one saying:pee a little in a pot to mirror yourself before you doing anything.France,do your own country’s biz with excellence,and then you’ll have rights to slap other country’s face.

Those anti-China people or group crazily mix politics with Beijing game,it only hurt themselve at the end,makes all differnet ethnics in China be more united,they are fighting an uphill,losing and un-necessary battle with China. USA,stop killing people in Irap,is this human right???France:try your best to let your masses to have a better material life in order to keep pace with other EU nations. China knows how to govern this country.

Posted by Xizang of CHINA | Report as abusive

Many westerners just feel threatened by the development of China, the China they can’t control. Human right and Tibet are just convenient tools for them to bashing China. Many of these guys make a living by trying to bring down China.

To the crowd of “if china is so great, why so many people leave china…., has any one claimed that china in general is greater than US and West europe? Even in the greatest country in this world, people still leave for whatever reason. I am glad so many Chinese spreaded to the rest of the world, so they can see the true face of the western countries and fight against all the injustice against chinese.

China has a lot of problems, you can bash China or make fun of China all the way you want, but at the end of the day China is geting better and better.

Posted by Brainwashed | Report as abusive

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