Olympic protests not an attempt to embarrass Chinese people

A PRC Chinese friend of mine recently asked me over dinner what I thought about the Tibet situation — the Tibet independence movement, Western protests, Chinese reaction, and so on.

He pointed out to me and our other Singaporean friends present how the Western press had been lying about the situation in Tibet. For example, German newspapers featured scenes of police suppressing protestors. But those policemen were revealed to be Nepalese police, not Chinese. (I presume websites like anti-cnn.com which point out these untruths have been circulating endlessly among Chinese both in China and overseas.)

I have noticed that Chinese nationals all seem to have a strikingly similar perspective on the issue: That Westerners are jealous of a rising China and are trying to prevent the 1.4 billion people of China from taking their rightful place in this world.

Perhaps this is because most of them get their news from Chinese government mouthpieces like Xinhua, or from friends who read Xinhua or anti-cnn.com.

Knowing how sensitive this issue is with Chinese nationals, and not wanting to offend, I told him that I felt this whole situation was a misunderstanding between the Chinese and the West.

I told my friend that I feel that the majority of the Western “free Tibet” protesters are not out to embarrass the people of China or insult China (as in the country). Their protests are an attempt to embarrass the totalitarian Communist government of the People’s Republic of China, whom they believe need to open up and move towards a more representative government, rule of law and justice for all its people. Sure, there might be a few bigots among them, but we in China and Singapore do not realise that there are many European and American civil society activists who are genuinely seeking a more just world, even outside their own borders.

As for the misrepresentation of China in the Western press, I explained that in the West, unlike China and Singapore, there are no political controls on the press. Countries like Germany have countless newspapers which are all competing for readership.

One of the easiest (albeit least ethical) ways to increase readership is to sensationalise issues. Scenes of peaceful streets in Lhasa will not sell. So sometimes journalists in these papers will scrounge for random pictures to back their story of a harsh crackdown by the Chinese authorities. And since to many cloistered Westerners, all Asian people look the same, scenes of Kathmandu and Lhasa are indistinguishable.

However unethical (or ignorant) this might be, Chinese people should not see this as an attempt by Western governments to put down China. Since none of these papers take orders from their governments (unlike in China and Singapore), it is a mistake to attribute the newspapers’ stand on issues to that of their government.

I personally find this raucous Chinese nationalism very distasteful. The majority of Han Chinese have no idea what goes on in Tibet or Xinjiang. Whatever they hear from their national media is — like the Gold 90.5 FM advertisement — only the good stuff. How can they be in a position to judge that the Tibetan protesters (in Tibet) have no justification for wanting autonomy or independence?

I find it even more irritating when some chauvinist Chinese Singaporeans, who themselves have no link to China, automatically take sides with China without an understanding of the kind of government that rules that country. They too see the Chinese government through the lens of what our national media paints it to be.

I think it is important that all of us, whether Singaporean, Chinese or European, is that we all need to be more discerning when reading the news. Not everything the media churns out is the truth. Every story has two sides to it. We will do well to study both sides before forming our opinions.

Fortunately the Internet has opened up the media scene tremendously and enabled many of us to seek out these different perspectives easily with a click of a button. But how many of us make the effort to do this?


Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

6 thoughts on “Olympic protests not an attempt to embarrass Chinese people”

  1. Personally I support the Chinese government in this issue.

    The Chinese commies, for all their appalling track records in human rights, have done a real good job with Tibet, while the lamas themselves have done nothing to alleviate the sufferings of their own people when they are in power.

    You can curse me all you want, but I will support the Chinese communists (This should disturb Gerald quite a bit, since he is a Christian who probably thinks that commies are burning churches all the time. tsk tsk).


  2. “I find it even more irritating when some chauvinist Chinese Singaporeans, who themselves have no link to China, automatically take sides with China without an understanding of the kind of government that rules that country. They too see the Chinese government through the lens of what our national media paints it to be.”

    I find it even more irritating and hypocritical that Christians like yourself keep wailing about religious persecution committed in the name of communism when Christianity slaughtered pagans, infidels, atheists and other non-conforming folks for two millennia.

    My support for China has a lot to do with hard core facts and a firm grasp of history. Dare you challenge me to a debate, or do you wish to call the ISD for my take on halal pork?

    Your choice.


  3. I personally support the issue Chinese on this issue as well. When I visited some friend in the States and in London, I was stunned at the vitrol that they have for China and all things Chinese.

    This fear that China will grow to become this new hegemonical power have lead then to become extremely xenophobic which does not breed tolerance at all. China in truth does not have such an aggressive foreign policy. They are just interested in doing business and minding their own business.

    Of everything that Gerald said, one thing he is right about is on the media and how it is able to instil certain perception in the populace people. Regardless of whatever economical, political or even religious influences, media no matter how free cannot demonstrate that they are non-partisan.

    Most importantly of all, although the intentions of the pro-Tibetian protestors are great but the methodology is flawed. Using a platform like the Olympics just doesn’t go down with me.

    My two cents worth.

    Responsible Liberty

  4. Personally, as a pork-loving guy, I find it abhorrent that religion is allowed to shalom its way into the Olympics (I bet most athletes there eat pork……its a great cuisine!)

    If these monks have nothing to do, maybe we should send them our “beauties” from Geylang to service them….I heard they have a penchant or two for the Panchen Lama (And the old man Dalai as well).


  5. When we were the Sick Man of Asia, We were called The Yellow Peril.

    When we are billed to be the next Superpower, we are called The Threat.

    When we closed our doors, you smuggled drugs to open markets.

    When we embrace Free Trade, You blame us for taking away your jobs.

    When we were falling apart, You marched in your troops and wanted your
    fair share.

    When we tried to put the broken pieces back together again, Free Tibet

    you screamed, It Was an Invasion!

    When tried Communism, you hated us for being Communist.

    When we embrace Capitalism, you hate us for being Capitalist.

    When we have a billion people, you said we were destroying the planet.

    When we tried limiting our numbers, you said we abused human rights.

    When we were poor, you thought we were dogs.

    When we loan you cash, you blame us for your national debts.

    When we build our industries, you call us Polluters.

    When we sell you goods, you blame us for global warming.

    When we buy oil, you call it exploitation and genocide.

    When you go to war for oil, you call it liberation.

    When we were lost in chaos and rampage, you demanded rules of law.

    When we uphold law and order against violence, you call it violating
    human rights.

    When we were silent, you said you wanted us to have free speech.

    When we are silent no more, you say we are brainwashed-xenophobics.

    Why do you hate us so much, we asked.

    No, you answered, we don’t hate you.

    We don’t hate you either,

    But, do you understand us?

    Of course we do, you said,

    We have AFP, CNN and BBC’s…

    What do you really want from us?

    Think hard first, then answer…

    Because you only get so many chances.

    Enough is Enough, Enough Hypocrisy for This One World.

    We want One World, One Dream, and Peace on Earth.

    This Big Blue Earth is Big Enough for all of Us.

    A Poem from Washington Post

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