Friday, January 13, 2012

Chinese tourists ‘experience’ democracy, but …

It looks like being outside on election day could be too ‘dangerous’ for Chinese tourists

A couple of reporters from Reuters parachuted to Taiwan to cover tomorrow’s elections had an interesting piece today on Chinese tourists who, according to the headline, have “flocked” to Taiwan to “experience the elections.”

Kudos to the reporters for managing to get some Chinese to comment on democracy, an effort that yielded some very telling — and at times amusing — responses, including the inevitable tai tai dragging her husband away when he tried to share his views with the press (I myself saw months ago a wife slap her husband in public after he’d been handed a pamphlet by a Falun Gong practitioner just outside Taipei 101 in downtown Taipei).

Even more interesting, though, is information a fellow reporter passed on to me yesterday at a media gathering.

After a foreign reporter, perhaps slightly older than me, had shaken hands with Wu’erkaixi and, being introduced, asked the latter where he was from and what he was doing in Taiwan (“I’m from China, and I’m a political refugee,” which then required a hint on our part — “hum, June ‘89” — as the reporter seemed to be drawing a blank), another journalist, also a Canadian, told me he’d learned that a number of Chinese tour groups had been “ordered” to stay in their hotel rooms on election day.

Now, I have been unable to determine whether this directive applies to all Chinese tour groups or only a select few, and I also don’t know if the order comes from the Chinese side or Taiwan’s. One thing is certain: the Taiwanese tour guide who accompanied the group of Chinese walked away when the question was asked, while the ubiquitous Chinese tour guide/communist minder confirmed the directive.

So much for experiencing the elections!


Alex said...

RFI Chinese did a great podcast on this so-called phenomenon - spoke to one hyper-informed mainlander, who must have been a professor or something, for about 10 minutes, and to a bimbo from Shanghai for another minute or so. The first guy was visiting out of legitimate interest in the election. It was in the Jan. 12 edition of the 今日专题 podcast.

Michael Fagan said...

"...which then required a hint on our part — “hum, June ‘89” — as the reporter seemed to be drawing a blank."

And you say he was older than you? Where do they get these "reporters" from - the Universities?

J. Michael Cole 寇謐將 said...

@Mike: Somehow your comment makes me sound ancient. How old do you think I am? :)

Michael Fagan said...

Old enough to expect this sort of invincible ignorance from high-flying "reporters"...

It wasn't intended as an age-barb; it just seems to me that any reporter old enough to have been at least a teenager in 1989 should have the events of that year seered into their memory and be cognizant of the continuing consequences today. Zhou Enlai seems to have understood this very well with his famous remark about the French Revolution.

客家人 said...

The unique thing the common Chinese citizen wants from the Western establishment is to share its economy system - the capitalism. Period.

But definitely dismiss its pressure in the form of lecturing in order to drive them about what's acceptable (or not) on ideological politics. Repeat: coming to ordinary citizen because I'm not referring those who want to practice political activism.

As a Chinese-descendant living abroad and frankly not sympathetic to the commies, even so I hate to notice foreigners trying to meddle with China's affairs thru excuses somehow linked to some vague idea of 'universal value'.

Do the West want, in fact, help China? Keep the trade ties. Period.

J. Michael Cole 寇謐將 said...

@客家人: Thanks for the comments. I see what you're getting at. That said, I don't think China needs the West to "get" freedom and democracy. Those values exist in China and did so well before the West thought of "exporting" those abroad. The West did not need to invent Liu Xiaobo or Wang Dan or Wang Hui or Wei Jingsheng, to name but a few contemporaries. The question, therefore, isn't whether the West should "lecture" China on human rights, but rather whether it should help those within China who strive for freedom. In other words, such values are as indigenous to China as they are to the Middle East or Africa or the West. Absent the West, would people like Liu Xiaobo exist in China? Would they make the same claims? I believe they would.

I also take issue with China undermining freedoms in my country of birth, Canada, and my adopted country, Taiwan. This leaves me no choice but to speak up.