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29 February 2012
RIOTS IN CHINA, EGYPT AND BRITAIN: SPOT THE DIFFERENCE
There have been protests in south-west China recently, particularly in Sichuan Province, by ethnic Tibetans seeking greater local autonomy from the central government in Peking. Rejecting assimilation by the Han Chinese majority, they want to maintain their distinctive Tibetan culture and religious practices. Of late a number of Tibetan monks have set fire to themselves to draw attention to their cause.
The Chinese central government has always regarded calls for autonomy, particularly from Tibetans, as the first step towards demands for independence from China and has cracked down heavily on such protests, stationing large battalions of police in the troubled areas and arresting demonstrators.
Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom last August, many cities, particularly London erupted in a frenzy of looting by poor rioters, many of them of ethnic origin, stealing mainly cheap goods from local stores. The riots provoked a fierce and righteous reaction from the UK judiciary, which dispensed what appeared to be summary justice in double-quick time, handing down (it seemed) exceptionally severe sentences for minor thefts (stealing a bottle of water, for instance) that would normally not have attracted such harsh punishment.
It can surely not be coincidental that the Arab Spring was still proceeding at full tilt at that time. Western public opinion was almost unanimously behind the heroes of Tahrir Square – street disturbances were wholly to be approved in North Africa – but not over here, not in our own back yard, thank you very much.
Musing along these lines, we were struck by a letter in the UK’s Guardian newspaper on 22 February 2012 from Dai Qingli, spokesperson at the Chinese embassy in London. The bold type is ours.
“I am writing with regard to a letter (Remember Tibet, 7 February), which gave a groundless and distorted account of the recent incidents in some Tibetan areas of China. In one of those incidents, a handful of rioters gathered illegally at some parts of Sichuan Province. They smashed and looted stores and ATMs, and damaged two police cars, two fire trucks and several other cars. Some of them even attacked police with knives and guns, injuring nearly 20 officers. The police exercised the utmost restraint, but eventually had to fight back in self-defence, shooting and killing two mobsters. Thanks to the support of the local people, these incidents were addressed properly and public order was restored.
The Chinese government is duty-bound to combat crimes and safeguard public order. We have seen the British government doing the same when rioting occurred in some parts of England last August, as is the common practice of all countries acting to protect social stability.”
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2. Das Vierte Reich/The Fourth Reich (6 Feb 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
5. What would Gandhi have said? (30 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.