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In Beijing, plenty of pro-China free speech

April 25, 2008

Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Beijing, China
By Mark Mullen, NBC News Correspondent

"Do you work for that American news company that said all those bad
things about the Chinese people?" That question was posed to me
yesterday by a taxi driver as I was riding to NBC News’ Beijing bureau.
Not exactly your typical ice-breaker.

The driver was referring to CNN commentator Jack Cafferty, who made a
comment on air about China’s leaders being "thugs and goons" – which has
been taken as a personal affront by the nation of 1.3 billion people.

I might have thought it was unusual for someone in China to bring up a
politically loaded subject like that except for the fact that a Chinese
babysitter my family has worked with for about two years asked me the
day before to clarify who my employer was.

And later that same day, as we were shooting news footage inside a
Beijing restaurant, a Chinese couple who recently returned from a
vacation in the United States started complaining to the crew and me
about Western press coverage of China – especially when it comes to the
issue of Tibet.

The series of comments are an illustration of how far the current wave
of Chinese nationalism has reached. It's fueled by anger over the
tarnishing of China's image at a period of great pride for hundreds of
millions of Chinese excited to be hosting the Olympic Games.

When you speak with people here, you get a sense that many average
Chinese are hoping Olympic publicity will allow the outside world to
notice the positive changes China has made in recent years, instead of
fixating on what is wrong. That sense of real national pride – not some
robotic obedience to the government and its policies – seems to be
behind much of the anger.

To their credit, everyone who spoke to me about my employer was polite.
But there is plenty of rage still out there, especially on the Internet.

China's blogs are seething these days, with many railing against the
Western press and Tibet sympathizers. Chinese bloggers have inspired
real protests against French-made goods and businesses in China – many
here believe the French did not do enough to protect the Olympic torch
when it passed through Paris, with a demonstrator almost wresting it
away from a Chinese Paralympics torchbearer.

Chill out

With many Chinese angry over these perceived slights, the government has
grown concerned about the intensity of the popular protest and what
impact it might have on the games and China’s international image. So
now, officials are taking steps to calm everyone.

Xinhua, China’s official state news agency, released a statement saying
it was time to curb national zeal, which the agency implied could scare
foreign investors away.

Two editorials in the Chinese press asked people to make a hospitable
impression to guests and channel their energy into working for China's

And for its part, France is sending a high-level delegation to China on
a charm offensive.

On April 30, the 100-day countdown to the games will begin, with the
Olympic torch arriving on Chinese soil, and many hope the fanfare and
celebration may help to shift focus away from the current controversy.

At the very least, this public outcry has been an example that in the
world’s largest communist country, there can be free speech: especially
when it's a decidedly pro-China.
Kalmyk Buddhists ask for Russian visa for Dalai Lama

Elista, Russia, April 24, 2008 (Interfax) - A Buddhist association of
the Russian region of Kalmykia has asked the Russian Foreign Ministry to
issue a visa to the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan
Buddhists worldwide.

"We hope that His Holiness will undertake his visit very soon," Kalmyk
Supreme Lama Telo Tulku Rinpoche told a news conference in the Kalmyk
capital, Elista.

Telo Tulku Rinpoche said he was due to meet with the Dalai Lama in
Dharamsala, India, early next month.
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