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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Perspectives: Orwellian haze over Beijing

August 6, 2008

By Paul Syvret
The Courier-Mail (Australia)
August 5, 2008 12:00am

GEORGE Orwell almost got it right. He just slipped up on the timing
and the location.

1984, set in the fictional land of Oceania, was his seminal novel
about a totalitarian state where all citizenry are monitored by a
Thought Police and any dissent is brutally suppressed.

Just think of Beijing 2008 as the Oceania of 1984.

Winston Smith wouldn't have lasted a week. He would have been
declared an unperson within days of Beijing being announced as host
city for the Olympics, and promptly carted off to China's equivalent
of Room 101 for re-education.

Residents are being ordered to sign pledges of "civilised behaviour",
and popular internet blogs that dare to criticise the Games are shut down.

In fact, great swathes of the net have been blocked altogether -- not
just for citizens but for visiting journalists as well -- by the
Great Firewall of China.

Countless thousands of Beijing workers have been forced to take
unpaid leave, and numerous homes and businesses have just been torn
down to make way for Olympic venues.

Ye Guozhu, whose Beijing home and restaurant was bulldozed in 2004 to
make way for an Olympic venue, was jailed for four years for having
the temerity to organise a protest. He remains in detention.

Tens of thousands of surveillance cameras monitor the streets of
Beijing and an estimated 110,000 security personnel (more than the
total number of men and women in Australia's armed services) are on
hand in the capital to ensure the Chinese version of "order" prevails.

Smile in the wrong direction, or break wind near an Olympic banner,
and you're likely to find yourself taken in for questioning.

And that's before we even consider the rules that, among other
things, ban spectators waving team flags or sporting T-shirts that
might dare to question China's human rights record.

So what could be done to make the 2008 Games -- which by reports to
date have about as much Olympic spirit as the Villawood detention
centre -- more representative of life in China in 2008?

Perhaps we could stage an event to recognise the Falun Gong movement,
which was banned in 1999 and whose members make up half of China's
labour camp population.

At the time, China's Ministry of Civil Affairs, in a statement
straight from the pages of 1984, said: "According to investigations,
the Research Society of Falun Dafa had not been registered according
to law and had been engaged in illegal activities, advocating
superstition and spreading fallacies, hoodwinking people, inciting
and creating disturbances, and jeopardising social stability."

I guess a spiritual movement that advocates truthfulness, compassion,
and forbearance has "subversive" written all over it.

So maybe the International Olympic Committee should suggest a special
Falun Gong event in Tiananmen Square, modelled on the schoolyard game
of Red Rover, except instead of using a tennis ball the "Red Rover"
is given a heavy truncheon to  bludgeon any truthfulness, compassion
and forbearance out of contestants.

Come to think of it, the Olympic shooting events also could be moved
to Tiananmen Square, but instead of shotguns and clay pigeons, we
could use .50 calibre machine guns and university students.

After the shooting, the dead and wounded could be left where they'd
fallen, making for a variety of interesting obstacles for equestrian
events such as show jumping.

And to celebrate Beijing's famously invigorating air quality, the
Olympic marathon could also begin in the square and be run through
the streets of the city. The rules would be simple ­ the last man
still standing without the need for an oxygen mask or cardiac massage
would be declared the winner. A similar approach could be adopted for
the road racing events in the cycling program.

Here Chinese authorities might like to consider lifting the traffic
bans they have in place for the duration of the Games, making such
events as much a demolition derby in the perpetual half-light of
Beijing smog as a race per se.

And let's face it, as spectator sports, the likes of archery and
target shooting are about as exciting as watching paint dry.

China has thousands of Tibetan monks who apparently are surplus to
requirements, so why not let them loose on the archery and rifle
ranges and see how well our Olympic sharpshooters go against a moving target.

At least the Chinese really have got into the spirit when it comes to
the Olympic motto of citius, altius, fortius -- faster, higher, stronger.

According to a report in The Financial Times, the Tibetan capital's
most senior Communist Party official cited the 84-year-old motto to
urge people to crack down on supporters of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's
exiled spiritual leader, at an Olympic torch relay ceremony in Lhasa
last month.

"Encouraged by the Olympic spirit of faster, higher, stronger, Lhasa
people of all nationalities will . . . resolutely smash the Dalai
clique's scheme to destabilise Tibet, sabotage the Olympics and split
the motherland," said Qin Yizhi, Lhasa party secretary.

Way to go Qin. That's gold, mate.
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