Cops and governments: Don’t hand over torch security to China-supplied security

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Apr 13, 2008 Cops and governments: Don’t hand over torch security to China-supplied security

Too often, too many American police run roughshod over people’s Constitutional rights. Why, then, did the San Francisco government permit a group of strongarm, China-trained, China-selected men (did sexism permeate the selection process?) to encircle and enforce the non-human Olympic flame’s protection during the San Francisco leg of the Olympics torch relay? That just pours acid into the wounds already inflicted on civil liberties by the United States federal, state and local governments.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the blue sports-suited "torch guards" to be "elite members of the paramilitary units that crushed dissent in Tibet, a Shanghai newspaper has disclosed." Australia’s The Age newspaper asserts that "the Shanghai-based Labour Daily newspaper, quoting Zhao Si, head of the elite unit, said [the torch guards ] were picked in 2007 from the People’s Armed Police, China’s 660,000-strong paramilitary force that mostly deals with internal security. Thousands of PAP forces are still deployed throughout Tibet and Tibetan regions of western China since monk-led protests on March 10 degenerated into a violent riot in Lhasa on March 14. Pictures of the guards at a swearing-in ceremony, after undergoing special physical, etiquette and language training at the PAP training academy in Beijing, show their official name as ‘The Protection Team for the Holy Flame of the 29th Olympic Games.’" Is that true? A holy flame from an atheistic government?

Torch bearer Konnie Huq said the "torch guards" in Paris "shouted orders at her and pushed her arm to make her lift the torch higher." In the above-displayed BBC segment on YouTube, Ms. Huq says the "torch guards" also told her when to stop running. Ms. Huq further said that the torch guards "were very robotic, very full on, and actually I noticed them having skirmishes with our own police and the Olympic authorities before our leg of the relay." You can see the torch guards’ hands-on control in Paris in the above-displayed BBC report and in this French television channel 2 report.

As the Washington Post reports, these "torch guards" from China even pushed around Sebastian Coe, who chairs the Olympic organizing committee for 2012. If the torch guards did that to an Olympics insider, imagine what they have done and will try to do with dissenters.

What a public relations blunder by the San Francisco authorities to permit the torch guard’s participation in the relay there. San Francisco’s government and police leaders only needed to check Google news to see that these torch guards from China — where human rights have little importance to the government — had their own decidedly non-civil-liberties-oriented, China-directed agenda; most of the foregoing newslinks already were easily found online before the April 11 San Franciso torch relay. If such a local government as San Francisco’s — which presumably is enlightened in many ways about civil liberties — can make such a blunder, imagine the extensive snub to civil liberties that occurs daily in smaller localities that have limited interest and limited resources and funds to protect civil liberties.

Fortunately, Japan and Australia will limit the "torch guards," where San Francisco did not. Japan’s Security Minister opposes letting the torch guards be involved. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a more watered-down pronouncement — but stronger than San Francisco’s actions — that the torch guards generally will stay on a bus, but will be permitted to assist with such tasks as passing the torch (how, and what will be their other permitted tasks?)

Kudos to Majora Carter for her simple yet powerful act of pulling and waving a Tibetan flag from her sleeve while carrying the torch during the San Francisco relay. Watch this YouTube video, where Ms. Carter seems to be describing China’s torch guards as interfering with her flag waving. Watch further as a cop pushes her into the observing crowd. Did the San Francisco cops push her out by the decision of China’s torch guards? (See Ms. Carter’s pre-relay statement about the motivation for her Tibetan flag-waving action.)

Many opponents of the Olympics torch protests and proposed boycott of all or part of the Olympics, urge that the Olympics should be a non-political event. Tell that to Adolph Hitler, who not only extremely politicized the 1936 Berlin summer Olympics –including ceremonies highlighting blonde, blue-eyed Germans (part of Hitler’s ideal "master race") — but who directly or through his government also apparently propped up the torch relay and the Olympics five-ring symbol where they previously had little or no significance to the modern Olympics. Fortunately, China’s human rights situation is not as bad as Nazi Germany’s. Unfortunately, China continually tries to have good enough relations with other nations in order, for instance, to keep up its extremely profitable international trade, without, in return, showing much in progress with its human rights situation.

Certainly, the Chinese government has made the Olympics most political. China would love nothing more than to whitewash its brutal current human rights record and past human rights violations. As I said on March 17, about the Olympics in China, those strongly opposed to China’s miserable human rights situation need not contribute to China’s attempted public relations coup through its Olympics; all that is needed is to turn off the Olympics television coverage and to not attend the stadium events. Jon Katz


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