The Global Handshake

I just got an email from Paul Hilder of Avaaz.org about a Global Handshake for the China Olympics:

As the Beijing Olympics begin, the world looks on with mixed emotions. It’s a moment which should bring us closer together, and Chinese citizens deserve their excitement — but the Chinese government still hasn’t opened meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama, or changed its stance on Burma, Darfur and other pressing issues.

Even worse, extremists in China are promoting the view that Olympic activism like ours is anti-Chinese. We can’t stay silent, but we also can’t let our efforts be abused to divide people. So what can we do? The answer comes from the Dalai Lama himself, in an unambiguous gesture of Olympic spirit and friendship: a handshake.

It began in London, passed hand to hand by thousands of us — now the handshake has gone online, and is criss-crossing the globe on its way to Beijing. All of us can join, Chinese and non-Chinese, and it comes with a promise: to hold ALL our governments accountable where they fall short, in Tibet, Iraq, Burma or beyond. We’ll deliver our message in a bold media campaign in Hong Kong and around the world: Click below to see how the Olympic handshake started, sign up to join in, and watch it circle the globe —

http://www.avaaz.org/en/handshake

The handshake idea is nice (with all of the banality of that word fully intended), but let’s not forget to extend the dialogue to the Uighurs or with Taiwan.  Ok, I concede, the “round-the-world” map animation showing virtual handshakes is pretty rad, but I digress.

There’s not a lot of hope for the kind of openness that allows for fruitful dialogue on the Chinese side when they beat up and harass foreign journalists trying to cover the attack in Kashgar.  Then there is the systematic internet censorship.  The guarantee of press freedoms for foreign journalists was part of the contract that the Chinese government agreed to in order to host the Games.  The Chinese government isn’t living up to their side of the bargain.

And those missiles aimed at Taiwan aren’t too friendly or conducive to dialogue either, are they?  Or how about that attempted Chinese weapon shipment to Zimbabwe?  Not very peaceful either.

And then there are those Beijingers who were forcefully and unlawfully evicted from their homes without proper compensation to make way for the Olympics.  And the peaceful Chinese civil society activists (and regular residents of Beijing) who are living under lockdown as a result of the games.  Their grievances can hardly be considered anti-Chinese; since they ARE Chinese.  Same goes for the repression of Falun Gong practitioners and other religious groups.

Ok, so I’ve given a handshake for peace, but what is the Chinese government going to give its own citizens and the international community in return?  Do Chinese leaders and hardline nationalists even want a handshake?  Or do they want the world to kowtow in reverence and awe at the “new” China’s coming-out party?  As much as we all wished that the Olympics were about sports and international goodwill, the truth is, they are also about state-sponsored political propaganda (and uncomfortable displays of nationalism if you ask me) as well as corporate bottom lines.

Taiwan Trip Photos

Dead Dictators

I got back last night from a 2 week vacation in Taiwan. The trip back to the homeland featured stays in Taipei, the bustling metropolitan capital of Taiwan, and Taichung, the 3rd largest city and my mom’s hometown. We also made a jaunt up to the mountains for a few days to escape the subtropical heat of the cities.

I fell off the vegetarian wagon in a bad way on the trip and overate in general. Taiwanese hospitality is the downfall of my waistline. But why, oh why are the Shanghai soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung so good? And why must they contain pork? I did try some vegan ‘tuna’ sashimi at a seafood buffet in Taichung, but it was slimy and rather nasty.

Din Tai Fung Soup Dumplings

I hope that being back to my daily routine in NYC will put me back on track. Stopped by the new Tribeca Whole Foods on my way home for some soy milk, organic bananas and açaí for smoothie making. How BoBo of me. 😉

Photos from the Taiwan trip on Flickr.

Show Your Love For Taiwan


May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and the 2nd week of May is Taiwanese American Heritage Week! Celebrate by showing your love for Taiwan with this “I Love Taiwan” t-shirt by Hepnova Multimedia. Proceeds from t-shirt sales help support our music endeavors and let us bring more fabulous and free music to you.

Save the Olympics?

I got this in my inbox this morning from Avaaz.org (My comments are in RED BOLD).

For those of you new to the blog or who do not know me personally, I worked at Avaaz for 1 year during its initial start-up phase. I’m now at Human Rights Watch, working with their China team on their China Olympics campaign, among other things. My commentary is solely my own as a concerned and engaged citizen blogger and activist and does not reflect the opinion of Human Rights Watch. I am doing this for the sake of open debate and dialogue about China, the Olympics and human rights.

Dear Friends,

The Beijing Olympics are a crucial chance to persuade China’s leaders to support dialogue and human rights in Tibet, as well as Burma and Darfur, and we need to seize it.

Dialogue alone is not enough, Tibetans, Burmese, Darfurians, Chinese and everybody else need concrete actions that result in better human rights. It’s also time to China to work on human rights in China as well. Learn more about the human rights issues surrounding the Olympics on Human Rights Watch’s China Olympics page.

Also, don’t forget the issue of Taiwan and the rise of rampant nationalism in China. I hope a Taiwanese athlete wins a medal. As in previous Olympic games, China has pressured the international community into forcing Taiwanese athletes to compete under the name “Chinese Taipei.” The Taiwanese (Republic of China) flag and national anthem are banned at the Olympics. When an athlete wins a medal, s/he gets to stand with the other medalists while their national flags are displayed and national anthems are played, but if and when a Taiwanese athlete wins a medal, s/he will stand without the Taiwanese flag and in silence. I’m not one for flag waving and national(ist) anthems, but I have to admit, the silent symbolism will sure be poignant.

China wants the Olympics to be a coming out party for a newly modern, powerful, and respectable nation. But the Olympics are about humanity and excellence–we can’t celebrate them in good conscience while ignoring the suffering of Tibetans and others. The Olympics are also about perpetuating nationalist propaganda and corporate sponsors making millions of dollars (or Euros or Yuan since the US dollar is becoming increasingly worthless).

So Avaaz is launching a major new campaign: SAVE THE OLYMPICS. We’ll ask China to save the Olympics for all of us (and more importantly for the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda team and for the shareholders of the corporate sponsors), by making specific, reasonable progress in dialogue with the Dalai Lama, securing release of Burmese and Tibetan political prisoners, and supporting peacekeeping in Darfur.

Ok, so even if the Chinese government does talk to the Dalai Lama, what will they say, what are the asks? Talking for the sake of talking is a start, but there has to be an agenda and a concrete roadmap for improving the human rights of Tibetans.

Our appeal will be placed on billboards and ads in major Olympic cities, in Chinese overseas publications, and we’ll hire a Chinese language team to engage directly on China’s lively blogs and in chatrooms. Sounds like a great idea, I hope they can pull this one off, especially the billboards and ads. Do the major Olympic cities in Beijing? Probably not, since I don’t think the Chinese government would allow that to happen. That’s pretty indicative of the lack of freedom of speech in China, isn’t it? We need 10,000 donations from people from 100 countries to kickstart the campaign this week with a truly global sponsorship–click below to see the ads and donate whatever you can, however small:

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/save_the_olympics/1.php?cl=77024255

Within China, where the Olympics were once seen as a victory for greater openness and internationalism, the internal debate has taken a bitter turn. Most Chinese are now growing angry over Olympic activism, seeing it as biased and “anti-Chinese.” Most Chinese also live on a highly controlled media diet, which along with a fiercely nationalistic education system, indoctrinates them to think that attacks against the Chinese Communist Party and government (which are one and the same) are attacks against “China” or the Chinese people.

If the games are a fiasco, China’s repressive hardliners will win the day–and we could see the worst crackdown yet.

We need to stop this, and fast. So our campaign aims to reach out to China and Chinese people to show that we’re not anti-China but pro-humanitarian, and that our desire is to save the 2008 Olympics, not ruin them. Click below to donate now: China, Chinese People, and the Chinese Communist Party are three very different things. One can be pro-human rights, anti-Chinese Communist Party, but still be pro-Chinese people.

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/save_the_olympics/1.php?cl=77024255

The Slogan of the 2008 Olympics is “One World, One Dream”. Let’s reach across barriers of perception and division, and ask the Chinese to make this dream come true for us this summer.

Does the implied “we” in “let’s reach across barriers of perception and division” include the Chinese government and state-controlled press? The Chinese government can help “reach across barriers of perception and division” by going easy on the jingoist national propaganda, letting journalists report unhindered in China, and by bringing down the “Great Firewall of China,” which prevents netizens in China from accessing fair and balanced news and other information about their own country and the world.

With hope,

Ricken, Ben, Graziela, Galit, Pascal, Iain, Milena, Sabrina and the whole Avaaz Team.

PS – If you are new to Avaaz, we are a new global campaigning organization launched in January 2007 that has rapidly grown to over 3 million members in every nation on earth. The Economist magazine has written of the power of Avaaz to “Give world leaders a deafening wake up call”, and we have been featured on the BBC talkshow HARDtalk. David Miliband, the UK foreign secretary, calls Avaaz “the best of the new in foreign policy”. You can see the results of our last campaign fundraiser, on Burma here, and the results of our last campaign on climate change here, as well as other campaign results here. Avaaz Foundation is a legally registered non-profit organization.

ABOUT AVAAZ
Avaaz.org is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means “voice” in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in London, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Paris, Washington DC, and Geneva.

Don’t forget to check out our Facebook and Myspace pages!

My Question for David Miliband


Learn more about the Avaaz/Miliband event at Chatham House in London in my previous post.

Hi, my name is Lee-Sean and I am from Taiwan, one of the most robust democracies in Asia, and a major trade partner with the European Union and the United States. However, due to diplomatic bullying and intimidation on the part of the People’s Republic of China, only a handful of countries have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan and the more than 22 million people in Taiwan no longer have a voice in international organizations like the UN or the World Health Organization.

Why doesn’t the UK have official diplomatic ties with Taiwan and treat Taiwan as an independent country? And why not urge the Chinese government in Beijing to plan peace talks with Taiwan, just as the London government has done on the issue of Northern Ireland and in other conflict zones in the world?