Thursday, July 17, 2008

An Olympic Distraction

[Image: Chinese paramilitary officers and a police officer surround a mockup house where "suspects" are held up in Xuchang, central China's Henan province, on Friday June 20, 2008. (AP Photo/EyePress.]

This is old news for you by now for sure but, as I am currently stuck in my own holding pattern, I need to throw something up here so you don't think Subtopia got mysteriously detained and interrogated for no legal reason whatsoever. Bottom line is, I’ve gone a little awol struggling with some health issues, but hope to rebound sooner than later. So, enough of that, just bare with me.
Some quotes on China's Olympic Security Preparations.

Via The Big Picture, Earlier in June, China launched a week-long series of anti-terrorist drills called "Great Wall 5", in preparation for the upcoming 2008 Olympic Games.” The drills involved emergency responders, "police forces, the People's Armed Police, the People's Liberation Army and the health, environmental protection, meteorology and transportation departments." according to China's Xinhua News Agency

Great Wall 5. There’s something so simple, cliché, and perfect about that name. It’s not at all cryptic like the Pentagon's secret programs, you know -- Ordeal Lancer, Rugged Vortex. No, no. Great Wall 5 is almost just what it says it is, I guess, save the stones – another great wall project in China. The fifth one, in fact; a special non-architectural generation of Great Wall. Interesting. I wonder what 2, 3 and 4 were all about, in what dimensions they served. Further, how many great walls will eventually become a reality, in some form or another, in China? There's probably a perfectly good explanation for #5, but I like it, the catalog nature of it. As if China were actually just getting started in a long profitable future of building many many Great Walls, in different configurations and variations, and this time good old number 5 just happened to fit the bill. The fifth generation Great Wall of China, oh how far it's come. It's numeric tag almost makes it sound like a product; it's the Great Wall of China meets IKEA. Soon other countries will be ordering Great Walls in various models and sizes ready to fit in to their own defensive schemes. They'll become security architecture masterpieces, canonized like Beethoven's symphonies. Dah-Dah-Dah Daaaaaaaaaahhhnnnnn.... Whatever. If there were an Olympic event for babbling, I might have a chance. Since there isn't one, I'll move along.

China has created a special 100,000 anti-terrorist force for the Olympics, reinforcing the impression that the Games will be dominated by tough security measures. They said that an elite commando unit, known as "Snow Wolf", had been practising anti-terror drills. ("The 300-strong unit was tasked with counter-terrorism, riot control and other special tasks, such as hijacking and bomb disposal. Each officer of the unit was outfitted with 300,000 yuan(42,900 U.S. dollars) worth of equipment." - source) The anti-terror squad will be backed up by a 400,000 city volunteers – the neighbourhood committees who are the ears and eyes of the Party and the police in residential streets and compounds – and a million "social volunteers. These include the regular army of bus stop assistants and pedestrian crossing monitors. - Telegraph 500 specific plans for security, transport, fire-fighting, and VIP protection. The capital also has 150,000 security personnel and more than 290,000 volunteers patrolling every corner of the city to ensure a terrorism-free Games.

By now, you've seen all the pics, and they are hilariously and frighteningly amazing. Just as the Chinese government knew the world would find them. It's MOUT as an Olympic Event. The symmetry and choreography of the exercises, the sheer display of militarism has certainly lived up to the rest of the Olympic hype, and it’s not difficult to look at the images, and say, like on so many other occasions -- only in China. Aside from their massive pictorial warning the other power in these images is their ability to distract from other areas of focus they'd probably rather not have us feast our eyes on. China has definitely been undergoing a healthy dose of scrutiny as the world prepares to head over for the Olympics. The spotlight's been wide and bright on issues of Tibet, the vast and mechanical transformation of Beijing, the loss of ancient Hutong neighborhoods, among tons of other issues from pollution to the jailing of activists, human rights violations, and of course -- security.
But another article I just stumbled upon delivers some crazy statistics on the levels of demolition and displacement that have been taking place to build out China's great Olympic moment at the hand of the wrecking ball and forced eviction, putting the above photo (which is a anti-terrorist training exercise) into a different light. Is the military training for a hostage situtation, or just practicing the military art of eviction? The Boston Globe reports:

More than 1.25 million people in Beijing - at times as many as 13,000 people a week - have been evicted since the city won its Olympic bid in 2001, according to the Geneva-based Center on Housing Rights and Evictions.

That's absolutely unfathomable. Unconscionable. It's the equivalent of an exodus. It is a calculated refugee disaster. The government has offered compensation but read on and you'll see it's mere pittances. Not to mention responding to this is a logistical impossibility. In a scathing open letter written by two of China’s most regarded human rights activists, Teng Biao and Hu Jia, entitled “The Real China and the Olympics”:

It has been reported that over 1.25 million people have been forced to move because of Olympic construction; it was estimated that the figure would reach 1.5 million by the end of 2007. No formal resettlement scheme is in place for the over 400,000 migrants who have had their dwelling places demolished. Twenty percent of the demolished households are expected to experience poverty or extreme poverty. In Qingdao, the Olympic sailing city, hundreds of households have been demolished and many human rights activists as well as “civilians” have been imprisoned. Similar stories come from other Olympic cities such as Shenyang, Shanghai and Qinhuangdao.

Needless to say, none of this is truly unique to China, it's just a questions of scale. I guess, my only point here right now is not to let all of the fanfare distract you from the real stories underneath it all. What is the proper measurement of China's Olympic footprint? China's Great Wall 5 might spare the world another tragic moment of global terrorism, but how many lives have already been tossed aside to make room for their Olympic stage?

(Thanks Nick)


Blogger Tony Piff said...

great post, 'noki. take it easy, your back is killing us.

5:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those photos are insane....

7:39 PM  

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