I’ve had a great Olympics so far. I’ve managed to avoid all but the most incidental coverage of the actual “games”; though it hasn’t been easy. I’ve refrained from getting into arguments with patriotic and even downright chauvinist Kiwis about the “funtastic” effort from “our” chaps and chapettes. I’ve even managed to catch up on some classic Star Trek thanks to Moac’s buddy who’s kindly loaned us his prize collector’s edition DVD boxed set.
But it hasn’t been so much fun for the blessed Chinese who thought they were going to get an opportunity to have their complaints heard by a sympathetic and “modernizing” regime. I read today of two grandmothers who’ve been sentenced to “re-education through labour” just for even daring to take the dictators at their word and apply for a protest permit.
The isolent cheek of these two old ladies; don’t they know what’s best for the nation is also best for them.
To top off my week of hilarity, the story of the underage Chinese gymnast is finally getting some well-deserved attention. He Kexin is a plucky young lass who serves as an object lesson to the gruntled grannies. She knows what’s best for everyone is to shut up and play along with the charade.
Ah, the scandal. Gotta love these games.
I first wrote about the amazing young gymnast a week or so ago. Then it was in the context of how anorexic and under-developed all of the female gymnasts look on TV.
The other grotesque illusion of these games is the sight of the young women competing in the gymnastics. The gold medal winner, American Nastia Liukin is 18, but she looks at least four to five years younger. Some of the other competitors who are in their mid to late teens look about 10 or 11. In fact the rules mean that all the gymnasts are supposed to at least have their 16th birthday in the year of competition. And it seems that the Chinese were not even satisfied with that; according to some media reports, they have had girls as young as 13 competing in the team that won the overall gold medal [Salon].
I don’t know, Ms He has a Chinese passport that says she’s 16. It lists her birth date as 01/01/92, no time is given. But we can assume that she qualified in world record time, perhaps with just a one-one-hundredth of a second margin. And she took that unique form into the final of the uneven bars competition, beating American Nastia Liukin in a “tie-break” (Huh?) even though they both scored the same for their routines.
Despite constant denials that they’ve cheated from Chinese officials and a stony silence from the IOC, the scandal has been fueled by those maniac destroyers of everything we hold dear, persistent bloggers with nothing better to do. Why can’t real journalists be as inventive and persistent in their pursuit of the truth?
A US-based internet security consultant and part-time hacker calling himself “Stryde Hax” has trawled through the search results on Google, Google China and the Chinese search engine Baidu, unearthing numerous examples of cached official Excel spreadsheets showing He Kexin listed as being born on January 1, 1994. [Sydney Morning Herald]
The Stryde Hax’ virtual trail is fascinating and a great example of simple online investigative reporting. I’ll be using it as a case study with students for sure.
Hack the Olympics! 18 August 2008
Olympic Hacking #2 20 August 2008
But as Stryde points out, the real issue here is how far the Chinese authorities will go to attempt to cover up the trail.
At this point, I believe that any reasonable observer already understands that age records have been forged. This story now is really about Internet censorship, the act of removing evidence while at the same time claiming that the evidence is wrong. For the first time I watched search records shift under my feet like sand, facts draining down a hole in the Internet. Will this stand?
Thanks Stryde for your inspiring work. Incidentally, to all you budding journos: check out this link as well, it might provide you with some more useful tips.
that’s no way to treat your venerable ancestors!
Let’s move on from arguably the world’s youngest ever Olympic gold medallist to the other end of the age spectrum. Folklore has it that Chinese culture reveres ancestors and takes care of its old people like they’re some from of living treasure. But not, it seems if you actually think that the rights that exist on paper are their to be really exercised.
Some political analysts say the police may be refusing to enforce the government’s order, announced last month, to allow protest zones. Chinese lawyers and human rights advocates also suggested a more cynical motivation — that the authorities were using the possibility of legal demonstrations as a ploy to lure restive citizens into declaring their intention to protest, allowing the police to take action against them.
The Chinese government had promised the IOC (how gullible are those dribblejaws?) that protests would be allowed in special “protest pens”. But it was a promise they were never going to keep. Of the 77 applications for permits, none were approved; and “protest pens” don’t sound very inviting either.
A large number of those who applied for protest permits have however found themselves locked in pens of a different sort – prison cells. [China stifles protest during Olympics]
I love this statement from Inner Party member Wang Wei. We’ve met him before and his facility with Orwellian English is truly remarkable:
“The idea of demonstration is to resolve issues. It is not demonstrating for the sake of demonstrating. We are actually quite pleased to hear that over 70 cases have been resolved.
“The resolution of these protests were through dialogue and communication. This is the way we like to deal with things in Chinese culture. Chinese culture always emphasises harmony.
It seems too that the Chinese government has not learned how to turn the other cheek. A group of American Christians has had 300 Bibles confiscated. Don’t these ageing Stalinists understand the soothing power of the Lord’s word?
A fax from the customs officials in Kunming said that under Chinese law, foreigners can only bring in one to three copies of religious products for personal use. For more than that, letters of proof must be obtained from the religious affairs office of China, it said. This policy was explained to the Americans, the fax said. [NZ Herald story]
Speaking via a fax machine, wow, modernisation in China has really come a long way. What’s also really obscene and demonstrates that the whole Olympics has been about integrating Chinese state-capitalism [no dribblejaws, China is not a communist country and you should stop saying so] into the global economy is the fact that the IOC is going limp and refusing to speak out about the blatent human rights abuses. Do you need any other reason than this to join my protest against London 2012?
Unfortunately for the IOC and everyone else who said that awarding the Games to China would bring change on these issues, is that they now find themselves impotent in the face of China’s point-blank refusal to play the game.
As Giselle Davies, the IOC hapless spokesman says at every opportunity, the management of the pens “doesn’t fall under the organizing committee and games operations”. This is factually correct but morally spineless. [Peter Foster, Telegraph UK]
I just want to point you to this blog: Students for a Free Tibet. Some brave activists from this organisation have put their bodies on the line Beijing. They deserve our solidarity.
It’s not just Chinese officials who are dopes
Finally, doping scandals. Not only have several atheletes been kicked out of the games for failing to pass drug tests, now four horses have had their Olympic dream shattered too. I feel sorry for the animals. They were not given a choice and could not provide informed consent, unlike the human drug buckets.
The horse Camiro, ridden by Tony Andre Hansen, was part of Norway’s bronze-medal team, and the team could lose its medal. The other three horses are Ireland’s Lantinus, ridden by Dennis Lynch; Brazil’s Chupa Chup, ridden by Bernardo Alves; and Germany’s Coster, ridden by Christian Ahlmann. NZ Herald story
Stripping a medal from a horse, that’s barbaric!
footnote: Here’s a link for those of you who want to follow up my comment about state-capitalism in China