By Mathew Little
|Apr 17, 2008|
Canada's Parliament Hill was transformed into a sea of red flags this weekend as about 2,500 Chinese expatriates gathered to publicize what they called "the truth of Tibet."
The event, which involved minor skirmishes between pro-Beijing and Tibetan supporters, highlighted the vast discrepancies in views separating many Chinese expatriates and mainstream Canadian society.
Just before the rally began a group of Chinese protesters shouted "Liars, liars, liars …" at a small group of about a dozen Tibetan supporters. Police intervened and escorted the Tibetans away from the area.
"We weren't saying anything. We were silent and solemn. We were expressing our views on Tibet under the Chinese government rule," says Laura Lodoe, one of the Tibetan supporters.
"They formed a mob and surrounded us. It was scary. One person came into my face and said "f___ Tibet, f___ Tibetan, you should all die," recounts Lodoe.
An Epoch Times reporter on-site heard one of the pro-Beijing demonstrators telling others not to "talk to the criminals," while referring to the Tibetans. Some members of the crowd held a banner reading "Dalai Lama = Slavery in Tibet."
The rally aimed to shed light on what organizers called the "truth of Tibet." It featured speeches imbued with Chinese nationalism and criticism of both Tibetans and those who questions China's human rights record.
"The Chinese government does not need advice!" yelled one speaker, a representative of the Federation of Ottawa Chinese Canadian Organizations.
The crowd responded with cheers.
"China is an independent nation, respect our nation, respect our people," said another.
China's communist party has attempted to deter criticism over human rights by painting such criticism as a foreign plot to undermine China's status. Appeals to stop torture and arbitrary detention in China are portrayed as a form of Western cultural imperialism.
In between speeches at the rally, one female performer shouted: "We love peace, and we love freedom. But whoever dares to offend us, we will eliminate him."
Speeches were interspersed with nationalistic Communist Party songs expressing a love for the red flag and the purported joy of the Tibetan people upon being liberated from "slavery" by the PRC. The crowd chanted slogans such as, "Down with Tibetan separatists! One China!"
No mention was made of the fact that the Dalai Lama has long ago denounced the wish for Tibetan separation, and instead advocates greater autonomy within China.
A concern repeatedly voiced by the rally's organizer was that western media reporting on Tibet is "biased" and that westerners have been deceived about what has transpired in Tibet over the last 60 years.
"As you all know, for the Tibetan issue, only we truly understand," Weizhen Tan, a Toronto businessmen and sponsor of the rally, said in Chinese during one of the speeches.
"Fifty years ago, it was slavery. In Tibet, under the leadership of the Dalai Lama, 80 per cent of the people were illiterate. The masters of the slaves suppressed and squeezed the slaves. They sold the slaves like they sold livestock," said Tan.
"They peeled off human skin, removed eyes from the human body, cut off human feet and hands. Such things could only happen under the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama now wears the overcoat of a pope, and pretends to be a kind old man, posing himself as a missionary of peace.
"Then after the liberation by China, millions of slaves [in Tibet] were liberated, the dark clouds were gone and the sun came out."
"But only we know such things," said Tan.
Indeed, it is a story unfamiliar to us in the West. Here, we learn that the Communist invasion in Tibet in 1950 ended decades of de facto Tibetan independence, and that the Communist invasion was accompanied by the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans. We learn of the destruction of Tibetan monasteries, the disappearance of the young Panchen Lama by Chinese authorities, and the continued restrictions on freedom of religion.
Events like the rally at Parliament Hill highlight the way some in the Chinese diaspora seem to be living in a world far removed from mainstream Canadian society.
Joe Wang, president of the Chinese-language New Tang Dynasty Television, lays the blame squarely on the fact that many of the Chinese media outlets operating in Canada are controlled by the government in Beijing, including the "Great Wall" package offered by Rogers, which consists of nine Chinese state-run television stations.
"You might think that once they arrive in Canada, the Chinese people can be exposed to more information from the media here. But instead, the news they receive is almost exactly the same as what they would see if they were living inside Mainland China," says Wang.
"Most of them are controlled or influenced by the Communist Party, so of course many Chinese media right now are trying to demonize the Tibetan people."
New Tang Dynasty Television, by contrast, was established by Chinese North Americans seeking to promote dialogue and foster greater understanding for liberal-democratic values. Wang says the TV station's outspoken criticism of human rights abuses in China has made it a target for harassment by the Chinese embassy.
In the last several years, New Tang Dynasty's Toronto office has been vandalized numerous times, according to Wang and employees have had their tires slashed. Internal documents leaked from the Chinese embassy in Ottawa revealed the embassy's intention to prevent New Tang Dynasty from gaining CRTC approval (approval has since been granted).
Cheuk Kwan, chair of the Toronto Association for Democracy, echoes Wang's concerns about the Chinese-language media.
"For those [Chinese people] who are still wavering [on their opinion of events in Tibet] after reading all these Chinese newspapers or listening to the radio or watching TV, you would think that China is doing the right thing."
Kwan explains the surge in nationalistic rhetoric in China as stemming from some people's inability to distinguish between the China as a country and its current rulers.
"[The Chinese people] have been educated to think that if you love the country you must love the Communist party. If you hate the party it means you hate the country."
"They use nationalism as a tool," said Kwan. "It's a diversionary tactic."
Sheng Xue, co-chair of Canadians Against Propaganda, suggests that Canada could go a long way toward promoting more understanding in the Chinese community by being more mindful of foreign influences on our Chinese-language media.
"The Communist party's involvement in the Canadian media environment is something we have to be careful about, especially when they're spreading this kind of misinformation and fuelling hostilities in our community.
"Of course we want members of the Chinese community to have a good selection of Chinese news to choose from. But the Communist Party has tried to monopolize the Chinese-language media even overseas. They go so far as to try to harass media companies established by Chinese-Canadians and drive them out of business. That has to stop."