There is nothing about cocktails here, so skip this post unless you are having trouble sleeping. . .
Following up on my earlier post on the Chinese protests in relation to Tibet, there have been some further developments in the whole Chinese protesters and Chinese online media saga.
- After coming home from the protest on Saturday afternoon I rang the offices of Sky Kiwi to try and find out the reasons for my banning. Having had my IP address blocked it was not possible to look to the site itself for help. I was given the mobile number of a Sarah Li, who seems to run Sky Kiwi. I left a detailed message regarding the situation with the man who answered her mobile (she herself was apparently sick). I told him I wanted to know why I had been banned from the site. Had I offended some part of their terms of service? Had there simply been a mistake? I emphasized the irony of the situation and said that I hoped they would get back to me soon. The man promised to have Sarah call me back as soon as possible.
- On Sunday violent threats against me appeared on the site. Netizens talked of tracking me down and arranging to have me “fucked up”. Other netizens discussed my identity, describing the clothes I had been wearing at the protest and thus making me easily identifiable from photographs posted online. Ironically, while some members of the community discussed my identity, potentially with a view to facilitating my assault, other members of the community were very concerned to protect the identity of the Tibetan, in case his family were assaulted. You need to understand that Tibet is an immensely happy place, and things can easily turn violent when a Tibetan who is merely contented encounters a compatriot who is actually blissfully ecstatic.
- I spent Sunday afternoon making numerous phone calls to get the threats removed. Sarah Li never answered her phone, and nor did anyone at the other mobile numbers I was given by the office. The office kept telling me to call back on Monday, but I wanted the material removed before things got out of hand. In an incident a few years back (the China Bounder Affair to be precise) an acquaintance complained people visited his offices in China to make threats over a similar matter. In the end a guy called Wesley decided to help. It took much convincing to get him to speak English, then more convincing (including mention of police involvement if he didn’t act) to get him to actually do anything. In the end though he took action and the offensive material was removed from the site within an hour or so. Great job Wesley! You actually did something to help. Thanks.
- On Monday I had been expecting a call from Sky Kiwi (I had left enough messages by this stage). No call came. I made a reminder call and left another message for Sarah.
- I left another message at the Sky Kiwi offices on Tuesday.
- On Wednesday (today) I called the Sky Kiwi offices again. They told me to call Sarah. I did so. Surprisingly, Sarah answered her phone. I briefly identified myself and asked if she had received my messages. She said she had, and moreover had already returned my call. This was odd since she had definitely not called me. I tried to explain the situation in case she was mistaking my identity. She interrupted to tell me again that she had already returned my call. Then she told me I should not be calling her and that she had no obligation to return my calls. She said I should deal with the matter through the site. I tried to tell her that I could not do anything through the site while my IP was blocked. She hung up. I called back. She hung up again, saying she was “in a meeting”.
- Having had no luck with Sarah I tried the Sky Kiwi offices again. This time they told me to write them an e-mail since they could not deal with the matter by phone. If they could not deal with the matter by phone then what had the last four days of taking messages been in aid of? I told them this. They told me to write an e-mail and that whatever I wrote would be “given to their lawyers”. Really? What is going on here? Should this not be a simple issue of explaining their forum moderation policy to a frustrated reader/contributor. I don’t want to talk with their lawyer. I want to talk with somebody in charge and find out why a site whose members are organizing a protest against ‘media bias’ bans the one member who asks a few thoughtful questions about that protest. How and why does this happen? The answer must : 1 – site moderation policy, or 2 – site bias, or 3 – a mistake. Somebody at Sky Kiwi has the answer to my question. Can we not communicate about this simple matter without going through lawyers?
At this point I have given up trying to deal with Sky Kiwi. From Saturday through to Tuesday they were just uncommunicative and hard to deal with. On Wednesday they turned peculiar, with Sarah lying about having called me and the desk staff talking about getting lawyers involved. I have tried to understand them. There seems to be no point trying any further.
In a side note, a New Zealand journalist told me that he had tried unsuccessfully to contact one of the protesters to follow up on Saturday’s protest. The reason they didn’t want to speak to him? The protester felt that the journalist, as a Singaporean Chinese, was “not a real Chinese”.
Lets finish by analyzing this last matter. A segment of the Chinese community decides to protest what they see as ‘western’ media bias against them, a form of discrimination if you will. The point of the protest is supposedly to communicate their views to mainstream society (‘western’ society, if you like). A journalist approaches them to discuss the protest, but is rebuffed on the basis that, as a mere Singaporean Chinese, he is “not a real Chinese”.
A couple of points. . . First, who is discriminating against whom here? The discrimination within the Chinese community suddenly looks worse than the discrimination they are supposedly facing. Second, how will the protesters communicate with mainstream society if they harbor such bigoted attitudes? Are the protesters trying to engage and influence mainstream opinion (hint: this may require two-way communication), or are they just angry patriots clutching flags?