“Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Kill the pig! Bash him in!” – William Golding, Lord of the Flies
Sunday afternoon saw Auckland subjected to a mass display of ugly Chinese nationalism. Thousands of Chinese gathered in Aotea Square for what was billed as a ‘celebration’ to ‘support the Beijing Olympics’ and promote ‘peace and harmony’. In reality the event was clearly a political rally. Olympic references were drowned out by nationalistic flag waving and chanting. The chauvinistic demeanor of the majority, coupled with a lack of policing, encouraged a large and hostile minority to indulge in physical intimidation and random violence. Within a few minutes of arriving at the event I was assaulted and abused, getting rescued from the hostile crowd by a protest marshal. The marshal then politely asked me to leave, because the event was, in his own words, “not safe for New Zealanders”.
So what exactly happened here?
You know that ‘Sacred Flame’ that’s been tying up the world’s police resources for the last several weeks? What say we bring it to New Zealand?
I first heard about this event on Thursday evening. I had been reading about how the Australian leg of the Olympic torch relay had seen pro-Chinese demonstrators rampage through Canberra assaulting pro-Tibetan demonstrators. The police were so busy protecting the Olympic flame (the ‘sacred flame’ to the Chinese) that protecting Australian citizens from violent Chinese students took a back seat. Finishing that article I breathed a sigh of relief that the Olympic torch would not be coming to New Zealand. Shortly afterwards though, while browsing the New Zealand Herald website, I read that groups within the Chinese community in Auckland had decided to organize their own “Olympic Torch Relay”, as part of a rally to support the Olympics. In the words of Lincoln Tan from the New Zealand Herald:
“Encouraged by organisers to wear red – China‘s colour – participants, expected to number more than a thousand, will wave Chinese flags and do a mock run with a replica Olympic torch in Aotea Square on Sunday”
I was stunned. Given the trouble associated with the Olympic torch elsewhere in the world (see here, here and especially here), why would the local Chinese community choose this moment to organize a nationalistic flag waving rally centered around a “mock Olympic torch”? The event was not even organized by radical students. It was organized by numerous Chinese community groups, and following consultation with the Chinese consulate.
I have nothing against Chinese community events to promote the Olympics. China is the Olympic host. New Zealand has a large Chinese community. New Zealanders are enthusiastic about sport. There should be huge potential for the Chinese community in New Zealand to organize Olympics related events. Such events could have all sorts of positive spin-offs. But was this event really going to be about the Olympics? Was it going to be a positive Olympic promotion or a negative nationalistic display? It sounded like the latter.
Chinese Rally to “Celebrate the Olympics”
Sunday arrived and I headed to Aotea Square to see things for myself, reaching the square just after midday. I was not surprised to find a noisy crowd of several thousand people waving big People’s Republic of China flags; they had been audible as far away as Albert Park. The crowd was almost exclusively ethnic Chinese. A full range of ages was represented, from children to the elderly. However, the majority were young Chinese from the PRC, many of them students. I could surmise this from languages spoken, accents, dress, use of simplified characters on their banners, etc. I saw no Hong Kongese or Taiwanese flags. Nor did I see any flags of the South East Asian nations that contribute to Auckland’s diverse Chinese population – places like Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. There were a few New Zealand flags, but virtually no non-Chinese participants. This appeared to be more a People’s Republic of China event than a wider Chinese community event. There were occasional Olympic flags, but essentially the flags were all national flags of the People’s Republic of China. There appeared to be no presence of Tibetan demonstrators, and nor were there any police.
Many people carried banners. The banner messages were mixed. There were many pure Olympic slogans. There were also many nationalistic and chauvinistic slogans that alienated certain groups and made them feel unwelcome at this “Olympic Celebration”. Some slogans were alienating even to other ethnic Chinese. “One World, One Dream, One China” is a strange and contradictory slogan that links the Olympics to militarism. Until Beijing renounces the use of force to impose its “One China” ideology on Taiwan, banners reading “One China” will be read as threatening. Blame Beijing for this unfortunate situation. “Oppose Tibetan Independence” is a political slogan that would make some ethnic Tibetans feel unwelcome and uncomfortable. “The Dalai Lama is a Liar!” is hostile, offensive to followers of Lamaism, and has nothing to do with the Olympics. “Seeing China’s powerful position, do you feel trepidation?” is unrelated to the Olympics or any current issue and can only be read as an odd attempt to intimidate non-Chinese. “Oppose Western Media Distortion!” sounds angry, inconsistent with a “celebration”, and unrelated to the Olympics. “Don’t politicize the Olympics” is a tricky one. Beijing boycotted every Olympics prior to 1979 over the Taiwan issue and currently humiliates Taiwanese athletes by preventing them from competing under their own flag. For as long as the ritual humiliation of Taiwan continues it seems ironic for citizens of the Peoples Republic of China to call for a non-politicized Olympics. I am not certain, but I believe the PRC has boycotted more Olympics than any other nation. Could there be a dash of hypocrisy here? The mixture of positive Olympics slogans and chauvinistic negativity was bizarre.
I snapped a couple of pictures of Aotea Square filled with red flags and political banners. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me, my camera was in the process of dying, meaning my pictures did not turn out.
“Tibetan Splittists” threaten the fun! Vigilant patriots save the day!
Taking the scene in, I saw somebody was addressing the crowd from the Aotea Center. I was about to move in that direction, but then I realized that the focus really seemed to be outside the Town Hall. The words of the speaker at the Aotea Center were drowned out by the crowd near the Town Hall chanting “Go China!” (?????). The national anthem of the People’s Republic of China was being sung. People appeared more densely crowded near the Town Hall than anywhere else. That area was the focus of something important that I could not see. I briefly saw a Tibetan Snow Lion flag flash through the Chinese ones, carrying writing too small to read. No Tibetan demonstrators were visible though. What was happening? Perhaps the demonstrators were about to burn a Tibetan flag? Perhaps the Tibetan flag was held by Chinese and carried a pro-China message? Maybe a Chinese demonstrator was making some kind of conciliatory gesture*?
I went to investigate the Town Hall area before venturing across to the Aotea Center. Rather than approaching directly and getting stuck in the mass of people I took a circuitous route through the thinner parts of the crowd, trying to get a clearer view of the situation. My route took me into the middle of Aotea Square and then towards the back of the Town Hall. From my new vantage point I saw that pro-China demonstrators were using their flags to cover a small group of pro-Tibet demonstrators. I still could not actually see the pro-Tibet demonstrators, but people around me were shouting “Cover their flags!”, “Good job!” and so on. This was not an organized chant, just many people shouting more or less the same thing. I now partly understood the situation.
I still had many questions though. The focus of this drama was a raised stone platform suitable for addressing a crowd, displaying flags, and so on. Why were the Chinese all crowded around this platform when the speaker and main stage were on the opposite side of the square? Had the organizers arranged things so that the rally had two separate focal points? Were different Chinese groups simultaneously organizing different activities in competition with one another? Maybe the ‘Olympic flame’ was about to be carried from this point to the main stage? Why had the Tibetan protesters climbed onto the platform that was the focus of the Chinese rally? Couldn’t they have politely protested somewhere around the edge of the crowd instead of rudely pushing their way right to the middle of it? I wanted to ask the Tibetan protesters what was going on but there was no way to get close. I also wanted to ask a Chinese demonstrator how the Tibetans had got there, but it seemed imprudent to try questioning the hostile and excited individuals around me. I assumed there would be an opportunity to ask later.
Things got more intense as I watched. The Tibetan flags disappeared completely. The crowd cheered. People shouted things like “Drive them away! Beat them up! We don’t want them!” I saw a Tibetan protester for the first time. He was a shaved headed westerner, squatted on the ground, either with his fingers in his ears or using his hands to protect his head. The crowd surged around him and he disappeared. In the brief second he was visible I did not see him get hit. He did not seem to be crouched down in pain, just in reaction to a hazardous situation. I saw no more Tibetans and things up on the platform calmed down slightly. I assumed that the Tibetans had somehow left the platform (driven away, leaving themselves, or rescued by police). I was concerned for their safety, but since the dynamic of the crowd on the platform became less violent after the Tibetans vanished (changing from struggling to flag waving) I assumed they had escaped and were not somewhere in the middle of the crowd getting bashed.
Getting assaulted ‘Olympic Celebration’ style
At that moment I spotted a Tibetan flag on the ground a few meters from me. Presumably it had just been stolen from the Tibetan protesters. People were pushing forward to trample on it. I followed the press, holding back somewhat, and pulled my camera out to snap this image, an obvious focus for anyone holding a camera – others around me were using mobile phones to snap the same photo. As I tried to take my photo somebody kicked me from behind. I also felt I was punched. Somebody seemed to be trying to snatch my camera. Events were confused, with various people grabbing and shoving me. A Chinese marshal of some sort intervened and started to pull me out of the demonstration. I am confused about exactly what happened, but the marshal’s intervention in itself confirmed that I was a focus of hostility and at physical risk.
As the marshal pulled me out I became surrounded by people screaming “Fuck off!”, “Fuck you!”, “Fuck your Mother!” etc. The abuse was in non-native English and Chinese. The abusers must have been relatively recent arrivals from China. I tried asking in Chinese for everybody to calm down, hoping that using their own language might make them see me less as an ‘enemy’ and more as a human being they could converse with. This had no effect though. The marshal had steered me up against the wall of the Town Hall, protecting our backs and preventing the crowd from surrounding us. He then moved me along the wall and out of the crowd. There were big cheers as the marshal finally led me away from the crowd and towards the back door of the Town Hall. The marshal told me not to go back into Aotea Square because it was not safe for ‘New Zealanders’. I guess he really meant ‘non-Chinese people’.
Media stardom and meeting my fans
The attack was partly caught on film by a cameraman (Aaron Huang) from SODE Productions (a local Chinese media company). The cameraman then continued filming me after I was driven out of the crowd. He filmed me answering questions from a couple of concerned passers by, then phoning police to report the assault. Although the assault was minor in the sense that I was not hurt, it was significant in that it indicated an aggressive and out-of-control crowd. Therefore I wanted to report it officially. No police were available at the time though. The cameraman turned out to be quite amiable, and we chatted while I decided whether to continue waiting for the police or just give up and leave. The footage he took may appear in a documentary about the event.
After maybe ten minutes the cameraman suggested going back to the crowd to attempt a “reconciliation”. I had mixed feelings about this. There was a safety issue, an issue of disobeying the marshal, and questions about the real purpose of it all. In the end I decided there was no harm in going along with his proposal. I doubted we would achieve much, but assuming I didn’t get assaulted again it seemed as good a way as any to spend my time. Many attendees had previously been passionately ‘communicating’ with me. Perhaps I should give them the opportunity to express themselves more calmly?
The ‘reconciliation’ never quite got into gear.
To get things rolling, I had to demonstrate that I was not a “Tibetan splittist” by letting everyone see that the T-shirt beneath my (buttoned) leather jacket was not the dreaded Snow Lion Flag. Making things interesting, my T-shirt turned out to carry the equally alarming Republic of China (i.e. ‘Taiwanese’) flag [NOTE: In response to some comments made below I should emphasize that this t-shirt was never visible prior to my unbuttoning my jacket and showing it to the cameraman. There was therefore no connection between this t-shirt and my being assaulted. I was not "asking for trouble" as some have suggested. I had in fact done the opposite and covered up a potentially sensitive article of clothing.]. Adding to the confusion, the T-shirt itself was purchased at the Flying Tigers Museum in Chongqing, China, and carried text from a pilot’s blood chit that specifically asked Chinese people to assist this foreign ally (you can see the design on this page). Clearly I was not a member of the mysterious “Dalai Lama Clique”, but was I some other, equally pernicious, variety of “splittist”? Would the Flying Tigers Museum really dare hatch an audacious plot (albeit doomed) to split the motherland through subversive t-shit designs? Could I merely be a souvenir buyer? How much assistance should they give me anyway? Somehow they accepted the T-shirt and a fresh round of anti-splittist violence was averted. We were making progress.
Unfortunately, those who had earlier been most eager to communicate with me (i.e. those who had abused me the loudest), were uninterested in civilized communication. I only remember one of them, a middle aged man, asking me a question. His question was “Have you ever even been to Tibet?” I tried to explain that although I had not been to the Tibetan Autonomous Region, I had visited ‘Greater Tibet’, the culturally Tibetan area that extends into Gansu, Sichuan, and Qinghai. The man scoffed and turned his back before I could finish my first sentence. Another individual, a woman of around 50 years old, notable earlier for her passionate screams of “Fuck your mother!”, offered a small Chinese flag as a sort of peace offering. I declined the flag**. Interestingly, neither of these individuals were fiery young students. They were both middle aged – old enough to have little excuse for their earlier lack of self control. There were too many people to interact with simultaneously. They were also all holding back and fairly uncommunicative, presumably out of embarrassment, hostility, nervousness at being on camera, or the dynamics of them being a ‘crowd’ while I was an individual.
I have probably missed some things that were said, but the reconciliation attempt did not achieve much beyond letting them see I was not hiding a Tibetan flag under my jacket. Of course, so what if I had been? Anyway, it was good to have at least tried to talk. Personally I could have tried harder, but given the hostility I had just experienced I was not feeling particularly sociable. I more or less just put myself in front of them, put the ball in their court, and let them do what they wanted. They offered nothing much in the way of an apology, interest in me quickly died, and after a couple of minutes I left. The group I spoke with was not identical to the group that attacked me, though it included at least three individuals from the earlier attack.
Saying goodbye to the cameraman I walked away via the back of the Town Hall and towards Mayoral Drive. This route took me away from where I was ultimately headed, but it seemed foolhardy to go back through the square alone. A solitary policeman came hurrying down from Mayoral Drive as I left. I asked if he could take my assault complaint. He told me that he had more urgent things to do and jogged towards the crowd looking stressed.
I headed home. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to hear the speakers or see the ‘Olympic torch’. I guess I was in the square for less than ten minutes before getting attacked. Walking home I avoided eye contact with Chinese people, not wanting to get involved in further trouble.
After I reached home a friend of mine called, wanting to meet up and get something to eat. I took the car out and drove along Queen Street to meet him. It was after 2.00 pm by this stage. Queen Street was filled with convoys of Chinese in souped-up cars, blaring their horns, waving flags, screaming, disobeying police directing traffic, and generally creating a disturbance. Chinese pedestrians occupied the pavement, waving flags and cheering the disruptive behavior of the convoys of cars. I was happy to be alone in my car and not sharing the pavement with the flag wavers. I picked up my friend on Queen Street and we went off for lunch.
Based on news reports, posts on Sky Kiwi, and my own experiences, the day was marred by multiple instances of violence. The following is a quick summary:
- Violence against the small group of four Tibetan protesters. There was clearly a lot of shoving and physical intimidation. One Network News showed a Chinese protester swinging punches at a Tibetan protester. However, no Tibetan protesters were reported to have required medical treatment. Overall it seems Chinese marshals prevented the violent crowd from causing serious harm. There were no arrests.
- Unprovoked violence against myself as detailed above. There were no arrests.
- An incident reported by and involving a non-Chinese builder. Details are not clear but it seems the builder intervened to stop protesters attacking a car (they were rocking the car and pushing flag poles through the windows). The builder and his car then became victims of an attack. There were apparently no arrests.
- An attack by a Chinese female on a taxi. This seems to be a separate incident to the above. In this incident a taxi driver shouted comments in support of Tibet and in response his car was attacked and apparently damaged by a Chinese female. The assailant was detained by the police and released with a warning. The driver was not compensated for damage to his car.
- An assault on a non-protesting Tibetan sympathizer. A man called into a radio station and described being shoved around and struck in the face with flag poles when he attempted dialog with Chinese protesters. There were no arrests.
- An incident outside McDonalds on Queen Street, in which Chinese protesters were verbally harassed and physically assaulted (having their glasses knocked off) by two or three female Polynesians. The Chinese on non-Chinese violence was ostensibly political. This incident sounds racist, probably an ugly reaction to all the Chinese flags. A European man participating in the Chinese protest (his face painted with Chinese flags) intervened by physically assaulting the Polynesians. Read translations of Chinese accounts of this incident here. Two of the three arrests made on the day were for this incident, and seem to have involved the Polynesian assailants. The assailants were charged with assault.
- There seems to have been a third arrest, involving a non-Chinese person, for disorderly behavior. I can find no details on the incident involved. It may or may not have been connected to one of the above incidents.
- There were probably other incidents in addition to the above. It would be unlikely for me to have found information on every single incident of violence.
So what to make of all this? First, there was far more violence than occurs at most political protests, yet this was supposedly a peaceful “Olympic celebration”. The numerous posts on Sky Kiwi denying that the event was a “protest” or “violent” are simply untrue. Second, the level of violence was astonishing given the near absence of opposing views at the event. Tibetan protesters were outnumbered 1000 to 1. One would have thought Chinese attendees would have been delighted at the huge turnout in support of the Olympics and the near absence of critical voices. It is difficult to understand why they began assaulting bystanders who expressed pro-Tibetan views (e.g. the taxi driver), or who they thought might be pro-Tibet (e.g. myself). The number of violent incidents, all occurring in separate locations, indicates a substantial minority of violent and aggressive ‘Olympics supporters’ who were thirsting for conflict.
So where were the police? The real Olympic flame has created mountains of policing work around the world, yet when the Chinese community decides to import this style of fun to New Zealand by organizing a nationalist rally with accompanying “Olympic flame” there is not a policeman in sight. The lack of a police presence made an odd contrast to the recent protests against the Electoral Financing Act, which saw a huge police presence line Queen Street to control a docile gaggle of retirees.
The timing of the rally could hardly have been more sensitive. The event was being held months before the Olympics (making it hard for many to appreciate the Olympic connection), weeks after the signing of the controversial Free Trade Agreement with China (opposed by many New Zealanders), and just days after the Canberra torch relay (which saw numerous assaults by aggressive Chinese students). There was clearly huge potential for trouble.
A private company called The Edge, which manages the Aotea Center and Aotea Square, was responsible for the event. I have spoken with their security manager. Apparently they were not expecting such large numbers, and on seeing the turnout they requested police backup that never arrived. At least one of the Edge security personnel was in Aotea Square throughout the event and says he never saw a policeman.
The Edge may have failed to arrange police assistance, but the police themselves were also at fault. On the Friday before the protest the police were quoted as saying that they were aware of the protest and had “contingencies in place should there be any trouble”. The police knew the event was happening and knew what had just occurred in Canberra. The police know the Auckland CBD has a huge population of Chinese students. The police have personnel monitoring websites like Sky Kiwi and presumably sensing the anger and extremism of Chinese students in New Zealand. There was plenty of trouble and the police were absent. The police and the mayor of Auckland failed to do their jobs.
The only security personnel that I saw were Chinese marshals, though personnel from The Edge were apparently also present. The marshals did a good job in terms of protecting targets of violence, but of course had no power to arrest perpetrators. Their actions prevented things from escalating further and nobody suffered serious harm. However, the message seemed to be that pro-China thuggery was acceptable within certain limits.
Criticisms of the Event
Overall, I think the event was an embarrassment to citizens of the People’s Republic of China in New Zealand. Rather than feeling proud of attracting a large crowd, the PRC community should feel ashamed at the nature of the crowd. The crowd was chauvinistic, and many were disruptive, aggressive and violent. Imagine thousands of Korean students descending on Tiananmen Square for a display like this and you will understand how it looked to outsiders.
Some people will be reading this and thinking I have been biased by my own negative experience. Of course that experience has influenced my thinking. However, I am not too concerned about what happened to me; it involved only a small segment of the crowd and would not have been noticed by most attendees. I am more concerned with how the crowd behaved towards the Tibetan protesters.
Admittedly, I do not really know what happened here. However, looking back, I doubt the raised platform on which the Tibetans were standing was being used in the formal proceedings of the Chinese event. My guess is that Chinese attendees crowded towards that area in response to the Tibetan presence. I may be wrong, but my reading is that hundreds of Chinese ignored invited speakers at their own event in favor of taunting and assaulting four Tibetan protesters. The official speakers were made inaudible by the people screaming at the Tibetans. I do not understand this behavior. The protesters were positioned such that anyone focused on the stage would have had their backs to them “they were at the â€˜back of the hall” so to speak. Why were hundreds of attendees incapable of just ignoring them?
The organizers should be embarrassed at the conduct of this very large group. Why bother with speeches if nobody wants to listen? Why not just bill the event as “Smash up the LV store to celebrate the Olympics” and be done with it?
Discussion of the event on Chinese websites
Much of the online discussion of the event on Sky Kiwi (New Zealand’s leading online community for Chinese) has been concerning. There have been calls for larger and more extreme actions, celebrations of the violence that occurred on Sunday, and plenty of hostility towards New Zealand. Nationalistic extremism was the dominant voice in the lead up to and immediate aftermath of the event. To be fair, more moderate voices are emerging now that several days have passed. People have perhaps had time to do some thinking and realize that things got out of hand.
Alongside the calls for more violence, there has been some “anti-violence” rhetoric. For example, users have been asked not to post photos of scuffles and assaults. The purpose of the request is unclear though. Is it to hide previous violence (and perhaps protect the perpetrators) or discourage future violence? An acquaintance of mine went on to Sky Kiwi to question the violent nature of the rally (I am banned from the site ever since I questioned an earlier demonstration, as you can read about here and here). Initially most respondents either told him there had been no violence, or that the violence was “Chinese expressing themselves” and locals should shut up and accept it. Slowly, he started to attract some supportive or at least sympathetic responses.
Scofflaws have celebrated their actions online and received unanimous praise. For example, the female who attacked a taxi and apparently damaged its door is being treated as a hero. She has attracted dozens of messages praising her patriotism and holding her up as a role model. Not a single person has suggested she overreacted and broke the law. However, one or two people have hinted at tracking down the taxi driver and taking further action against him.
Hopefully an opinion shift is occurring towards less violent attitudes. You seriously have to wonder if New Zealand needs this type of minority community.
Positive Comments about the Event
A few comments on a more positive note:
- Apparently attendees were very efficient in cleaning rubbish up.
- Everybody seemed to know the words to the Chinese national anthem, yet even the All Blacks mumble their way through the New Zealand anthem. I am not sure thousands of people gathering in one place to sing the anthem of a foreign country for no obvious reason is a good idea, particularly when the anthem involves “rising up” to “brave the enemy’s gunfire” – but least they sang it well.
- Despite all the trouble large numbers of people managed to ignore the Tibetan demonstrators.
Suggestions for Future Olympic Events
Before making any suggestions I should first note that I am not very interested in the Olympics. My lack of creativity below can be attributed partly to this. For what it is worth though, here are a few ideas:
- Far fewer Peoples Republic of China flags: Large groups simply should not wave national flags in other people’s countries. The smaller the group the more acceptable the behavior. The behavior is more acceptable from visiting sports fans since their presence is temporary and their intent non-political. For similar reasons the behavior is more acceptable for short events like football matches. The Olympics do not lend themselves very well to flag waving. The competition continues for weeks, and the emphasis is supposed to be on individual competition, not national rivalries. Even were the Olympics in progress, Sunday’s display would have been over the top, but the Olympics are still months away. Large numbers of New Zealand citizens or permanent residents gathering to wave foreign flags is rather odd. International students doing it is just rude.
- Far more non-Chinese attendees: Achieving this might be very difficult. How many locals would want to be part of an event like that on Sunday? Were they even invited? Would they have been welcome? I have no concrete suggestions on how to achieve larger numbers of non-Chinese attendees. Obviously the key is a more welcoming attitude and less alienating behavior. If more non-Chinese attendees could be attracted it would create a better impression and help keep the focus on the Olympics rather than politics. Also, if politics really must be involved in an Olympic event, surely the clever way of winning support from the wider community would be to attract non-Chinese to the event and then gently try to influence their opinions (e.g. distribute leaflets, through speeches, etc.).
- Creative choice of ‘Chinese’ flags: Huge numbers of People’s Republic of China flags can appear alienating, but there are lots of other ‘Chinese’ flags to choose from. Examples include Qing dragon banners, and flags of the Hong Kong SAR, the 1911 Republic, and the Republic of China (i.e. ‘Taiwan’). Banners of Chinese sports groups are another idea. Even the Snow Lion should not be a problem for people that genuinely believe Tibet is part of China.
- Get rid of the ?????(Go China!) slogan. In the absence of any obvious focus (what exactly is China being encouraged to do here?) it sounds hostile.
- Don’t overdo the national anthem. Given that the PRC anthem is essentially a call to war, full of references to advancing on the enemy and so on, a little sensitivity is appropriate. There is also a difference between singing the anthem once to mark the start of an event, and singing it repeatedly to celebrate a crowd of four thousand successfully assaulting four lonely protesters.
I have written quite a lot. Hopefully, most people reading will find something of value. I doubt I will attend future Olympics related events in New Zealand. The politicization, nationalism, and hostility against non-Chinese are far too extreme.
UPDATE (16/06/2008):Â Nearly two months have now passed since the incident. At the time the cameraman who filmed me getting assaulted offered to put his footage online (and perhaps gather other footage) in order to help identify the people who assaulted me. I took his offer at face value, considering it a kind and genuine gesture. Unfortunately, despite me gently following the matter up he has never followed through on his promise. There was always a possibility that the company he worked for would not release the footage. However, according to the cameraman himself the company agreed to allow the footage to be used but he decided himself against helping me. His rationale is that the Sichuan Earthquake made it inappropriate. I don’t quite get the reasoning behind this, though it appears to be another variation on the ‘china as victim’ world view. An earthquake in Sichuan makes it OK for Chinese (many of them visitors to New Zealand) to assault non-Chinese New Zealanders. Or if the behavior isn’t quite acceptable it still isn’t appropriate to question it. He suggested that I attend a Sichuan Earthquake benefit event and ask the organizers there to help me. Umm. . . I don’t think so. We either go with the original agreement Aaron Huang or you go fuck yourself. All of my friends told me not to believe this guy. I guess I should have listened to them not him.
* The Snow Lion Flag is an ancient Tibetan symbol but variations were used even under Qing Imperial rule. While the present version of the Snow Lion Flag dates from the period of Tibetan de facto independence following the Qing, there is no real reason that appropriate use of a Snow Lion Flag should be inconsistent with being a loyal citizen of the PRC. The flag is illegal in China, but New Zealand is not China. Setting the legality issue aside, how is a Chinese citizen using a Snow Lion Flag any different from a New Zealand citizen using the Flag of the Independent Tribes of New Zealand, or the Tino Rangatiratanga flag? It would be nice if 21st Century citizens of the PRC could treat the Snow Lion Flag as graciously as the 19th Century Manchurians did.
** Turning down gifts is rude. However, I felt it would be inappropriate to accept the flag. First, I was at the event to observe only. Given the political nature of the event I was not interested in becoming a participant. Second, there was no need for another person carrying a Chinese flag at that moment. Chinese flags were everywhere! I have nothing against Chinese flags, and in the right circumstances I might carry one (e.g. at a football match where I was supporting the Chinese team). I make an exception to the above for really cool Chinese flags – e.g. Qing battle standards or the flag of the 1911 Republic.