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April 26, 2008 | by  | in Online Only | [ssba]

Protests Galore II

Today, somewhere between 500 and 1000 young Chinese people marched from Pipitea campus to Civic Square. VUWSA International Officer and CSAVUW (Victoria Uni Chinese Student’s Association) leader William Wu only began organising the rally a week ago. The solidarity between Chinese students, and their organizational abilities, puts every other VUW students’ protest I’ve attended to shame. Furthermore, although the leaders asked me (as one of the only “Kiwis” i.e. whities around) if the police would mind them marching on the road, and I replied that there was no way the police would stop 300 people (my impression of the crowd at that early stage) from marching, when the march actually took place, its leaders confined it to the pavement – so not only was this rally weirdly well-organised (when compared to most marches), it was also stunningly polite.

The organizers told both Salient and Fairfax reporters that the rally was non-political: they were not arguing that China should rule Tibet, rather they were merely voicing support for the Olympics and arguing that the Western media has shown a bias against China, for example in showing anti-Chinese protests along the London torch route, but not the simultaneous pro-Chinese rallies.

However, this message became confused, because a large number of marchers held “One China” banners, such as “China: 56 ethnicities, one family.” So underlying the main, keep-politics-out-of-the-Olympics message, was a distinctly political current. However, as William said, they were hardly going to stop people on the march from expressing their opinions. But it is worth noting that when some marchers raised the chant “One China! One family!” almost everyone joined in, so describing this as a non-political protest is not entirely accurate.

My favourite of their chants was the following:
“What do we want? Olympics!
What do we love? Friendship!
What do we hate? Protestors!”
Certainly a strange chant to heard from what ostensibly looked like a protest march.

The chant “Welcome to Beijing! Welcome to China!” was often followed up with “New Zealand people are awesome,” and the young Chinese marchers waved a few NZ flags alongside their red Chinese ones. Many will no doubt snubb their noses at this protest and remind us of Tibet. And of course we shouldn’t forget Tibet, but we also shouldn’t forget that, at the moment, the level of human destruction the US is enacting on Iraq is greater than that inflicted by China on Tibet, which is more about cultural swamping than bombs. And we should remember not to be so arrogant about China’s crimes, given that the West isn’t spotless. So the one point the Chinese rally is absolutely right on is that we must first become “friends” with China if we want its people to listen when we suggest changes.

There were absolutely no Falun Gong or Free Tibet protestors in sight, which I found very odd. One guy at Vodafone Homegrown tried to chant “free Tibet,” but his girlfriend put her hand over his mouth. Then some rocker chicks joined in the march for a minute to have their photos taken. When we got to civic square one guy kept saying he wanted to protest for Tibet, but I guess he felt outnumbered (see last photo).

[Edit] – William has just informed me that the protest was intended to be 50-100 people, and he is slightly concerned both that so many people showed up in such an organised manner, and that they used the march to send out a political message. So the plot thickens…


About the Author ()

Tristan Egarr edited in 2008. He threw a chair once.

Comments (7)

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  1. Breaking News: Third Terran outpost overrun by Zerg rush.

  2. Jackson Wood says:


    I wish I had been there with my Chinese flag!

  3. Gibbon says:

    What is your basis for saying that bombs are worse than “cultural swamping”?

  4. Bombing a country creates a “greater level of human destruction” than culturally swamping a country. More death, more injuries. Does this mean bombing is worse? That depends upon how you measure “worse” – one could argue that at least Iraq will still have its cultural integrity, whereas Tibet soon won’t, and that therefore the swamping is worse. So in the short term, the situation in Iraq is worse than that in Tibet, but in the long term? I don’t know.

  5. Andrew says:

    Out of it! and don’t forget that yesterday some obscure christian protestors calling themselves Swords Into Plowshares deflated one of the Waihopai Spy Base’s Sattelite domes. Classic!

  6. Kerry says:

    Andrew – LOL!

    The Ploughshares protesters have been going in the USA for some 30 years, most frequently praying next to nuclear weapons after tipping buckets of blood over them.

    They’re a well-known feature of the anti-nuclear-weapons debate in the USA, and on US bases around the world.

    The point of their involvement here is that Echelon is a US deployment on NZ soil, and all the data just goes straight to the USA without any analysis or decryption done in NZ.

    CND and Greenpeace anti-nukes campaigns are better-known here, because the admixture of christian politicking and activism is less emphasised in our more secular political environment.

    The USA has a greater history of religious groups lobbying politicians, and being very powerful from that context. One explanation for the US military continuance in Iraq, for instance, draws on fundamentalist christian beliefs in a final armagheddon war, to take place between the armies of the North and the armies of the South, in the Euphrates River basin (the border area between Iran and Iraq), which is a favourite rallying cry of Bush supporters in the Southern Bible-belt states.

    Not unsurprisingly, the rest of the USA is running out of patience for that idea, as recent publications such as The Bush Tragedy, by Jacob Weisberg, or Reagan’s Disciple: George W Bush’s Troubled Quest for a Presidential Legacy, by Washington reporters Lou and Carl Cannon, would attest.

  7. Kerry says:

    Just found this, more on the Ploughshares background – read the comments, several links to old Ploughshares actions in the UK & USA

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