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March 29, 2009

Maintaining a colonial empire is not an easy thing these days.
Agam's Gecko Blog
March 26, 2009

Chinese officials this week have shown that it is
actually possible for them to tell the truth,
under certain narrowly specific circumstances.

When the news broke that the South African
government had dis-invited the Dalai Lama to a
Nobel-sponsored peace conference in Johannesburg,
governmental spokesmen took great pains to insist
that their snub of the great man of peace and
non-violent freedom struggle was entirely their
own, with no influence from a foreign,
authoritarian regime. South Africa's Foreign
Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa insisted that
China had not exerted any pressure on the government.

"As far as the SA government is concerned, no
invitation was extended to the Dalai Lama to visit South Africa," Mamoepa said.

"So therefore the question of the visas doesn’t
exist. This is an independent, sovereign
decision. I am not aware of any approach by the Chinese."

First of all, the logic here is non-existent.
Three South African Nobel peace laureates had
issued the invitations to a number of people,
including the Dalai Lama, on behalf of former
president F. W. De Klerk's foundation. Mamoepa
maintains that because the SA government had not
invited him, "the question of visas does not
exist." Are people only eligible for South
African visitor visas if the government invites
them? That must be hell for the tourist and convention industry. Not credible.

Local journalists went to find Dai Bing, a
ministerial counsellor at the Chinese embassy in
Pretoria. In this instance, a Chinese official
was more truthful than the officials of a
democratically elected government in a free
country which had gained its liberal democracy
with the help of principled worldwide support for
their freedom struggle, quite some time ago.

Dai Bing, ministerial counsellor at the Chinese
embassy in Pretoria, said his government had
appealed to the South African government not to
allow the Dalai Lama into the country, warning
that if it did so, it would harm bilateral relations.

So. South Africa was threatened with dire
consequences, should it be so impertinent as to
receive the man who is the living symbol of his
people's legitimate freedom struggle while in
exile — in much the same way Nelson Mandela was
remembered and loved during all those years in prison at Robben Island.

Threat issued, obedience secured. It's almost a
replay of His Holiness' first visit to South
Africa ten years ago, after he was welcomed to
participate in the World Parliament of Religions
conference in 1999. He met with then president Thabo Mbeki at the conference.

However, a row broke out after Mbeki agreed to
see the Dalai Lama again separately. The Chinese
government protested and Mbeki cancelled the meeting.

There's nothing like showing a little principled
spine to encourage one's countrymen to feel
national pride. Reports I've seen in the past few
days indicate that South African citizens are
generally ashamed of their leaders' obsequious
China-pandering. Opposition parties forcefully
denounced it, and most of the Nobel laureates who
extended the original invitation have come down on the same side.

Former president De Klerk and Archbishop Tutu
said they would boycott the event unless the
Dalai Lama attended, and the Nobel Committee
withdrew its sponsorship on the same basis.
Although I had expected Mr. Nelson Mandela to
have felt obliged to stand with his comrades, or
at the very least make a clear statement on the
issue, he has thus far been completely silent. I
could perhaps have become confused as to whom Mr.
Nelson Mandela's comrades actually are. But
hopefully he will say something soon.

However, at least his grandson has put the
Mandela name on the right side of history. Mandla
Mandela had chaired the planning committee which was organising the event.

"For me personally and given the role my
grandfather played in founding our democracy this
rejection by the government to not issue a visa
is really tainting our own efforts at democracy," he said.

"It's a sad day for South Africa, it's a sad day
for Africa. We are a nation which is striving to
be a leader the in African continent. I don't
think as a sovereign independent country we need
to succumb to international pressure." South
Africa has one of the most liberal constitutions
in the world, he pointed out. "We have the right
to free movement and freedom of speech," he said,
adding that the visa refusal was "really a
warning where are we heading in the future".

Such open criticism of the ANC from within the
Mandela family is extremely rare.

Thank you, Mr. Mandla Mandela. Even though
Chinese leaders and officials have no need to
listen to you, or to Messrs. Tutu and De Klerk,
it's important that it be said in any case. China
of course expressed great glee in the success of
their bully tactics, which often don't work as well as they did this time.

The accidental PRC truthfulness from Mr. Dai Bing
was short-lived however. A few days ago I
wondered here whether the Chinese response to the
video proofs of Chinese atrocities against
Tibetans, released over the weekend, would be one
of "stop hurting our feelings!" In fact, their
answer almost reached my level of facetiousness —
they just declared the whole thing a fakery. And
then they blocked YouTube from the entire
country, presumably so that citizens wouldn't watch any staged videos.

There is no doubt that the latest YouTube closure
in China is due to the atrocity videos' release.
The clips became generally available on Sunday,
and by Monday the website was becoming difficult
to access. By Tuesday, it was impossible. (One
small upside to this; I won't need to deal with
angry fenqing commenting on my videos there in the interim.)

A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry
helpfully reminded reporters that 'we are not
afraid,' though not quite channelling Aung San Suu Kyi.

"Many people have a false impression that the
Chinese government fears the internet. In fact it is just the opposite."

Hmm, I wonder how these "many people" could have
ever arrived at such a "false impression" in the
first place. Perhaps it's because you clearly
demonstrate your fear of open information at every available opportunity.

The charge that this video (actually it's three
videos) is faked, is simply ludicrous and worthy
of nothing more than ridicule. Take a look at the
"Under Arrest" clip on the right sidebar if you
haven't, or watch it in larger format here.
Anyone trying to pass off the assertion that
these are actors performing for the camera, needs
to have his head (and ears) examined. No, scratch
that — nobody is that stupid. They are just bad liars, pure and simple.

And better yet (again, very strong content
warning) watch this one in large format, the
un-redacted version. The extremely gruesome bits
toward the end, with the sickening close-ups of
doctors carving rotten flesh from Tendar's body
after his torture wounds had been covered in
cellophane for months? China says that's been
faked, too. They really do think you are stupid
enough to swallow such a transparently ridiculous
line (by "you" I mean each and every reader who
sees this — you are their propaganda target).

I have read this morning that YouTube has removed
the offending videos from its servers, but the
two links above will take you to them on,
which I'm confident will not take them down. Blip
videos are clearer than YouTubes anyway. The
YouTube I embedded on Sunday appears to be still
available, but I'll switch it to the
version if that becomes necessary. In this day
and age, one doesn't get to eliminate evidence
that one's totalitarian regime happens to find inconvenient.

Maintaining a brutal colonial empire is not as
easy as it was in Napoleon's time, Mr. Wen. And
Mr. Hu, as a former commissar of Tibet, that goes double for you.

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