Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Chinese security personnel fight Tibet protesters... on the streets of London.

The parade of the Olympic torch through London last Sunday turned into a debacle as several Tibet protesters broke through police cordons and managed to seriously disrupt the procession.

What was meant to be a brilliant public relations exercise designed to generate public excitement about the Beijing Olympics in 2008 turned instead into a chaotic mess that will be viewed as a success by pro-Tibet activists, and which has inadvertently managed to reinforce a negative image of China.

There has been a lot of disquiet expressed about the Chinese 'heavies' running alongside the torch during the parade and the manner in which they behaved when there was trouble.

Who were these mysterious men in tracksuits with earpieces shouting orders?

What jurisdiction did they have to manhandle members of the public, potentially causing injury to either themselves or others? Were they the ones running the show or was it the Metropolitan police, who were also there alongside them in great numbers?

You can see more footage of the clashes here.

Some observers felt that the altercations they witnessed on TV were a unpleasant taste of Communist China style policing taking place on British soil. And they didn't like it:

One protester who managed to break through the police cordon, David Allen said his anger at the parading of the torch through the capital flared at the sight of British sporting stars being guarded in the streets of London by Chinese security men. "What really got my goat was our sporting heroes being surrounded by the Chinese security heavies guarding the torch," he said. "It makes us complicit in the regime's repression. You have to ask, 'Where were these security men last week?' Beating up people in the villages of China, no doubt."

Article: International Herald Tribune

Well, that may be an exaggeration but according to Reuters, the specially selected 'torch attendants' were indeed hand picked from the ranks of the same armed police force that would have been patrolling the streets of Lhasa.

Employed by the Beijing Olympic Organising Committee (BOCOG), the "flame protection squad" was formed in August 2007 to safeguard the fire 24 hours a day on its 137,000-km (85,130-mile), 130-day relay, state media have reported.

Its members were picked from the ranks of the People's Armed Police, the security force spun off from the army that is responsible for riot control and domestic stability. Tens of thousands of "wujing", as they are called in Chinese, have been deployed to Tibet and neighbouring areas to quash recent unrest.

Article: Reuters

In an unguarded comment, London Olympics chief Sebastian Coe is reported to have said about the Chinese security guards: "One thing in Paris is to get rid of those guys. They tried to push me out of the way three times. They are horrible. They did not speak English. They were thugs."

Article: Daily Mail

A further sense of how some British people feel about this incident can be found on the Guido Fawkes blog 'Order Order', a well known political blog specializing in British parliamentary matters. It was especially critical of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's decision to be involved in the ceremony:

Article: Chinese Goons in Downing Street

A selection of some of the comments:

"Very worrying to see UK police surpressing protesters with the help of blue track suited Chinese special forces. The touch relay has nothing to do with the Olympics and everything to do with Chinese propaganda. We in the UK are somewhat free sometimes to protest, totally unlike those long hard suffering Tibetan people."

"The Met should have arrested one or two to make a point that the Chinese may be able to shove people around in Tibet but not in Downing Street. This whole debacle did nothing for this country"

"We were deeply ashamed to watch the whole damning episode on last night's news. There's really nothing even faintly amusing that can be said about seeing this embarrassing farrago and the disgusting sight of Chinese security men taking precedence in London streets and outside No 10."

"Why should I have to pay for some Chinese Properganda ON MY SOIL? Then to top it all off there was the sight of some Chinese stormtroopers marching in formation down Downing Street pushing people and ordering them about for a photo-op"

"I particularly liked the black leather gloves sported by the chinese secret police, all the better for smacking any protesters around."

Clearly the presence of the torch attendants did not go down well. So why wasn't the whole thing managed by the UK police? Well, in the aftermath the police have blamed the Beijing Olympic Committee for making many of the key decisions about the parade and the chaos that ensued.

I have to admit it's hard to imagine experienced, local London cops running an event in such a mismanaged and chaotic way as was seen that day.

Related: Olympic Spirit Comes to Britain

Related: Clashes along Olympic torch route


Anonymous said...

"several Tibet protesters broke through police cordons and managed to seriously disrupt the procession."

Now if the police will efficient and did a good job then the 'mysterious men' would not have to do the job.

Pro-Tibet people are not helping the Tibetans, instead they are causing harm to the Tibetans' campaign.

What has this violence and chaos got to do with the olympics. They are just putting a show for the media people. Anything unfavourable to China they will blow it up.

But when the Tibetans started riots, burning and killing, they nary said a word.

Some people in the west are only shown one side of the picture.

burntbreadboy said...

In the press reports I've read, it was the Beijing Olympic Committee who insisted on sending a squad of special protection officers with the torch. They were not requested or wanted by the local police, who have said that much of the planning was done by Beijing officials who asked for things to be done a certain way.

I think the parade would have been run a lot differently had the police been left in full charge.

Anonymous said...

"Some people in the west are only shown one side of the picture."

Is this why Chinese state media cannot tolerate a free press and expelling all foreign journalists in Tibet from doing their jobs?

Clearly Western govts are faced with inconvenient truths to which they have no answers. I, for one, shall be boycotting the games as l will Ldn 2012.

burntbreadboy said...

"Some people in the west are only shown one side of the picture."

What, unlike in China??

Anonymous said...

Touché. publicity and propaganda which is why l added the Ldn 2012 boycott as well.

Do you think you could write this funny, harmless, insighful blog if you were writing inside China?

Anonymous said...

two wrongs do not make a right

yes Chinese media is very one sided
we know this

what that other person was trying to say is that there are two sides to the story like i did in another thread.

The so called 'free' media of the west also is one sided as is china's. you need to know both to pass fair judgement other wise you're opinions are biest

the uk are free to protest that is one thing, but it got out of hand part of it no longer was a protest a lot of people had gone just to make trouble


Construction Security said...

Fair enough, the police may of looked a bit laid back, but if they were tight up against the torch carrier, we wouldn't of been able to see the carrying taking place.