China doctors the news of Olympic torch relay

The English-language China Daily newspaper described London’s upheaval in the streets as “disruptions by a few Tibetan separatists and their supporters.” In the first reports from Paris by the state-run Xinhua news agency, the journalist cited “technical difficulties” as the reason the torch was extinguished and carried on a bus rather than by someone on foot.

A day later, a spokesman for the Beijing organizing committee of the Olympics told a hastily called news conference that though the relay had been disrupted, China intended to complete the longest torch run in the history of the Games.

Dissenting voices have been silenced even more than usual, so it’s even tougher than in normal times to gauge popular opinion. But censorship in China begins early and political debate is limited, so to many the torch demonstrations seem like overblown personal attacks against Chinese people, not just criticism of their government.

Sophie Richardson, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said the dangers of China’s heavy-handed censorship are evident.

“The downside of suppressing free information and substituting propaganda is quite clear, be it about toxic toys or repressed ethnic minorities – the eventual eruption is far worse than it might have been had it been dealt with openly,” Richardson said.

“As long as China blocks the free flow of information, it is unreliable as a trading partner, as a strategic partner or as a ‘responsible power.'”

I’ve gotten a fair number of spam comments professing to be from people telling me “I know nothing about China”, and that “Tibetans, even the Dalai Lama” don’t want their freedom.

I might believe some of the comments are legit if I didn’t get the same comment 3 times in an hour from same IP address (albeit with different email addresses, and slightly different spelling).

Look … I’m not anti-Chinese. I’ve got nothing against the Chinese people; but the people aren’t the government, and it’s the government’s policies that are causing problems.

BTW, spam-commenters … I don’t like the US government right now either … but that doesn’t make me an anti-American, either.

It’s called free expression. Maybe someday the Chinese government will decide to allow the Chinese (and Tibetan) citizenry a chance to give it a try.