The most disastrous Olympic torch run in history has ended with a new low:
On Sunday, clashes broke out in AP]near the relay start between a group of 500 Chinese supporters and about 50 demonstrators criticizing ‘s policies, carrying a banner reading, “Free North Korean refugees in China.” The students threw stones and water bottles as some 2,500 police tried to keep the two sides apart. [
And so we add another excellent reason, if any more were needed to avoid Beijing 2008: your safety. Our State Department is both powerless and unprepared to protect the safety of Americans in Beijing, but hey, at least you’re still safe in your own damn country. That’s more than they can say in Seoul today, where the Chinese government went to its population of visiting students in South Korea and recruited a highly disciplined force of ambassadors to show you that the transcendental brotherhood that is The Olympic Spirit must never, ever be contaminated by politics:
… unless they’re officially approved and sponsored, of course.
That photo, by the way, comes from Dan Bielefeld, who attended yesterday’s protest against China’s brutal treatment of North Korean refugees. His photos of the demonstration and the ChiCom counter-demonstration are an absolute must see. Dan’s photos show Chinese throwing objects, including what appears to be a glass soju bottle. Other Korean protestors held up rocks and tools that the students had thrown. Dan himself was hit with something, although (thank God) he’s OK.
One Chinese student swatted at the demonstrators with a flagpole. Another student was arrested for allegedly throwing rocks, police said. Police said four other people were arrested for trying to disrupt the relay. Authorities deployed some 8,000 police — some riding horses and bicycles — to protect the torch. [AP]
At one point, the two groups clashed with Chinese students kicking an elderly South Korean protester and hurling rocks at a group that raised banners chastising Beijing. [Reuters, Jon Herskovitz]
Being a glass-half-full sort of guy, I look at things like this and tell myself that a billion people can’t all be assholes. But until these last few weeks, I had no idea how low humanity had sunk in China, and how little self-awareness the Chinese seem to have about their plunging esteem in the eyes of the world, or the degree to which their own behavior is driving that trend. I’m guessing the “Master Race” act will not be popular in South Korea. You have to sense that the ChiCom authorities have abandoned the idea of showing the world their maturity and are just going for the domestic appeal of nationalism.
One North Korean defector poured gasoline on himself in the middle of a street along the route and tried to set himself on fire, but police quickly surrounded him and carried him away. The man, 45-year-old Son Jong Hoon, had led an unsuccessful public campaign to save his brother from execution in the North, where he was accused of spying after the two met secretly in China. [AP]
Here is some information about his brother, Son Jong Nam.
When the torch was passing Sincheon Station in Songpa-gu at about 3 p.m., however, a North Korean defector was arrested after jumping into the relay route to snatch away the torch. He said he was protesting against China’s forceful repatriation of North Korean refugees. “Many people died because they were sent back, and I tried to show my protest by putting out the torch,” he said. [Chosun Ilbo]
In spite of the widespead violence of the Chinese, only one or two Chinese were arrested, depending on which account you believe. Here are some video clips:
Those are images that South Koreans should study very carefully … and possibly accustom themselves to. I’m trying to imagine any other country whose people would behave like this in another country’s capital.