Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Down the torch

First the Tibetans reportedly destroyed Chinese property, albeit in their own land. Of course China had to respond to this lawless behaviour by sending in the police and the army to restore order and round up the trouble-makers. But world sympathy was with the Tibetans because the Chinese were seen as foreign occupiers and therefore had no business in Tibet. In fact, the Tibetans even have a government in exile in India, allegedly led by the Dalai Lama, who has been feted wherever he has gone, except in China and countries allied to China. So it is no surprise that Tibetans and their sympathizers are making use of the Olympic Torch Relay to demonstrate their opposition to Chinese occupation of their land.

Nobody can deny these demonstrations in a free society, not in London, not in Paris, not even in San Francisco. But I draw the line when these people attempt to seize the torch and extinguish it. Whatever the symbolism of the torch relay, or how it started or who started it and for what purpose, it has become a part of the Olympic games. In fact, the torch relay has been copied by many regional games. As such, a disruption of the relay is a disruption to the games - a direct provocation and challenge to the organisers of the Beijing Olympics and its worldwide participants and supporters. I daresay that, if ask, many in this group of people would agree with the Tibetans that their homeland should be free of occupation. But I also believe that they are opposed to any disruption of the games. So while the demonstrators have scored minor victories, such as extinguishing the torch in Paris, not once but 3 times, they may have lost the support of many. They have certainly lost mine.

It would have been enough to demonstrate along the torch relay route. Make noise if they want to. Tape up their mouths if they choose to. Show their placards to put across their message.  The world's press would report these to the world and the point would have been made. But by physically disrupting the relay and engaging in physical violence, now that is something that cannot be condoned, whatever one's grievance. There is talk that the entire torch relay be scrapped. If so, that may be a victory for Tibet, but sadly, they may have won the battle but would likely have lost the war.