Topic: human rights
As a uni student in 1989 and 1990 we lived with two different Chinese households in Canberra in the suburbs of Downer and Curtin. They were very good housemates, if less than western standards of house cleaning. Being a bit of a bush pig here that was okay. It was an indicator of perhaps '2nd world' social standards of the mechanic, a motel worker, an academic who explained the concept of the internet (in 1990!).
It was a cold winter. We literally lived on $4500 income, food, rent, books, before getting a job with Baker & McKenzie big corporate law firm in Sydney.
Recently we spent 6 months tutoring a great 16 year old I will call 'Lucy' (as in actress Lucy Liu) of Chinese Australian background but born in China. Always with grandma hovering.
Her English was pretty good for a second language but had some rough patches.
Lucy got over 90 in the end in her HSC even after fainting at school a month prior to the exams. We didn't know if it was a serious medical condition or not. That's when we had the "It Takes Personal Courage Talk" in earnest tones. It went like this:
Ok. So we don't know if it's a serious medical problem or nothing. The truth is no one else is going to do this for you. Really. Others can help like me as your tutor. But you have to decide to fight for your own corner, and your future. It takes commitment. No one else can make this choice for you.
That was it, right between the eyes, no hedging, no escapes, no excuses. She was young enough and tough enough to take it and it's what she needed to hear too, based on a trust we had worked on for months.
I was never prouder than when she went on and completed her HSC and got access to a tertiary course. For doing herself and her family justice. Bravo. It does take courage and she had it. Where is she now I have no idea.
She suggested I could make alot of money working in China using my English or such like, and tried to set me up with a relative. She taught me a maths multiplication game ambitious kids play over there. Told me about the cut throat lassez faire Shanghai rip off merchants and con artists. How one had to be at the top of your game just to hang on to your dough.
And with the Beijing Olympics on the way in a few years she was right as long as I avoided disease carrying rats (like Rudd famously was threatened by early in his diplomatic career). But that's not our vocation. Rather it's harrassing anti environmental corporate fascism via crikey.com.au and here.
But the broader point is this - It may have been the discussions over Macbeth where the nature of democracy, and good governance came up: Violence for political power versus say Gandhi philosophy? The Mao dictum of "political power grows from the barrel of a gun", or in Macbeth's case a sword in that famous profound Shakespearean play.
I suggested "a metaphor" beloved of HSC study guides using the Chinese Revolution over so called Emperor's noblesse oblige (not a very credible claim but at least analogous).
The memories are all a bit misty now like the witches bedevilling Macbeth in the picture above. But what I do remember clearly is this : Lucy, this otherwise perky teenager was extremely reticient to make even study talk about the flaws of a Chinese Govt regarding power through violence.
I pressed her on this dogmatism in someone so young - why not? It's only a student's essay and study, and it's a sound point too about the themes in the play about rivalry for political power, whichever side you take.
Oh no, I don't think that's a good idea. To criticise the govt of China. I just don't think so.
It was a fear she had no words or emotional equipment to articulate, as I saw it. It was a bridge too far for this otherwise ambitious bilingual teenager with the rebellious interest in gangsters, working to fit into two cultures - east and west.
Indeed there was still ill feeling in the family about the father insisting on taking out Australian citizenship, not least after Tiananmen Square in 1989 (which even if exagerating reportage was surely a disaster for democarcy in China).
This intelligent gutsy Lucy's fear and awe of the central Beijing Govt suggested brainwashing to not even manage criticism in a student essay. I could feel a chill hand in the room. We feel this same chill hand sanitising Beijing relations with Tibet has been on display in the main streets of Sydney CBD yesterday in a rally 13th April 2008. An unquestioning loyalty as per ABC tv coverage here:
News Video || Duration 2m 4s, Over one thousand demonstrators have gathered in Sydney to call for fairer and more objective reporting on events in Tibet.
This is my firm feeling. Proud of their emerging world power status - go China - will be the emotion. But it's a brainwashed loyalty. If "some western media" are "liars" as per the placards about the devastations of Tibet, much like the Japanese raped Nanking, then why simply is there no free press in Tibet?
In Tibet and Beijing both, no transparency to foreign eyes. No freedom of speech to criticise or organise a rival political party or media outlet for 50 years now.
Most Chinese born and raised, and likely diaspora in Australia too, with their satellite tv media consumption, don't even know what Tiananmen was about really.
But I can report that Martin (not his real name) on that day in 1989 was stomping through the house very upset "Chinese Govt very stupid" he kept saying "Very stupid" over the reportage of Tiananmen Square tanks rolling into the student protests. Because when he knew what was happening he reached an opinion for himself.
That's what professional media reportage is all about. Telling the truth and letting that truth take it's course. In short the Big Media should be aware this brainwashed effect of a closed society under the control of Beijing central is not going away. It's a preferred tactic of soft power by this enormous world power including through it's own diaspora here.
In this Olympic season though it's somewhat of a two way street of communication including at grassroots level. Though the road rules are a little lacking in this engagement still too. Let's keep this two way flow going. That's a constructive way forward for both parties, with truth as our guide.
Postscript #1, 14th April 2008
Crikey.com.au 14th April 2008 runs this revealing sheet sourced to the Chinese Embassy here organising public rally support:
An anonymous tipster writes:
The following points are based on an internal document circulated by the Chinese authorities in Australia to the Chinese Students Association of 7-8 April. It has two options for public action appended. The large "spontaneous protests" witnessed in Sydney yesterday are an indication of this kind of mobilisation effort. The following is a direct translation of the original document:
Executive Summary: This activity is a voluntarily organised and spontaneous peaceful patriotic activity. The aim of this activity is prevent the disruptive actions of Free Tibet campaigners (the Chinese used is Zang du fenzi - Tibet Independence Elements) and Anti-Chinese elements from interfering with the Olympic torch relay.
Roles and Duties: The National Flag Group -- is to hand out Chinese flags and Olympic flags to friendly onlookers; The Picket Group -- will maintain order under the direction of the group leader. All members will follow instructions to protect the Olympic torch; The Propaganda Group (i.e., the PR team) -- will hand out leaflets to standers-by, onlookers and others; and, The Visual Recording Group -- will record the words, pronouncements, provocations and malicious actions of Free Tibet campaigners. Moreover, this group will record all other useful material.
Discipline: Obey orders, act collectively. Prevent all actions that can in any way be detrimental to the image of China, including words, comments and provocative behaviour, or any use of force. When confronting provocation you must be aware that the media will exaggerate even your most minor actions without any basis in fact while willfully ignoring those of the Free Tibet campaigners. You must remain calm and cool. The Visual Recording Group must be sure to be timely in taking footage of the provocations and destructive activities of the opposition. There must be reasonable use of the national flag and slogans. Do not drop any or leave any behind. When speaking to outsiders firmly maintain that this is entirely a spontaneous activity. You must accept no media interviews in the name of any group or collective. Keep a reasonable distance between yourself and the torch-bearer. Maintain a smiling face to onlookers, the media and other peaceful demonstrators. Demonstrate the good behaviour of the Chinese. Wear light and casual clothing. We suggest that you wear light colours.
Costs: The organisers will pay costs in advance. However, if any participants wish to pay for themselves they will be most welcome.
Promotional Strategy - Option 1: The Canberra leg of the Beijing Olympic Torch Relay will begin at Capital Hill where Parliament House is located. The harmonious flame of the Olympic Torch will set alight the emotions of this garden city. The Australian Chinese Youth Exchange Promotion Association cordially invites all patriots, Chinese students studying overseas, patriotic young people as well as all of your friends and relatives to join hands as witnesses of this historical moment, to raise your arms and cheer! The aim of this activity is to share the Olympic Spirit and Great Chinese Civilisation with the whole world. The organisers will provide bus transportation from Sydney to Canberra return, as well as breakfast and lunch. Participants will also be presented with Olympic keepsakes. We will cooperate closely with the police to ensure the safe protection of the Olympic torch. Whenever any willfully disruptive individual is found they will immediately be handed over to the police to be dealt with.
Signed: The Australian Chinese Youth Exchange Promotion Association (a non-profit organisation sponsored by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Australia).
Promotional Strategy—Option 2: Chinese Students in Australia Welcome Committee for the Olympic Torch The Australian Chinese Students Association (ACSC) hopes that the vast majority of Chinese students studying in Sydney will participate in the welcoming ceremony for the Olympic Torch in Canberra, and by so doing cheer on the Beijing Olympics. We welcome the enthusiastic participation and mobilisation of all students, as well as their friends. We welcome people from all walks of life to sign up, regardless of gender, age or nationality. We will provide free transportation as well as breakfast and lunch. Our buses will be available at five different locations for pick-ups. Protesters have to apply to demonstrate ahead of time! Therefore any protesters who attempt to disrupt our force must be handed over to the police immediately.
Signed: The Australian Chinese Students Association (a non-profit organisation sponsored by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Australia).