IF NOTHING else, Beijing's attempts to dictate from a distance of more than 9000 kilometres what films Melburnians can watch show that the emerging ''new'' China is still very much an authoritarian state. China has stepped up pressure on the Melbourne International Film Festival not to screen a documentary about exiled Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer, having failed to prevent her being granted a visa, and to intimidate festival director Richard Moore into dropping the film. The festival has been subject to death threats and cyber attacks, while three Chinese films have been withdrawn. Now the matter has been taken up by a higher official, consul-general Shen Weilian. He has warned Lord Mayor Robert Doyle that Melbourne's 29-year sister-city relationship with Tianjin is at risk if today's premiere at the Town Hall goes ahead.The Age's news report of China's bullying is here. It notes:
While most Australians are likely to greet the news about Tianjin with indifference, the broader impact on relations with China is not so easily dismissed. However, it is not so much the festival organisers as China's leaders that need to think about what can reasonably be asked of a free country such as Australia. That is the crux of the problem: Beijing struggles to grasp the concept of freedom of expression. As Ms Kadeer told The Age, China is trying to ''impose its authoritarianism on the whole world''. It is seriously misguided in doing so. Domestically, repression is an unsustainable means of securing lasting stability, and when authoritarian regimes extend their bullying abroad, they simply inspire hostility.
It is understood that Mr Shen told Cr Doyle in blunt terms at a meeting at the Town Hall on Thursday that he risked jeopardising the Australia-China relationship - including Melbourne's sister-city arrangement with Tianjin - if he did not intervene and cancel the screening.An interview and discussion of her life is here.
In addition to the outrageous thuggery directed at Melbourne and Australia merely for being neutral on the subject of Chinese colonialism in Xinjiang, I heard from a reliable source yesterday that when Kadeer spoke at an Australian university the other day, Chinese in the audience harassed her, saying they were from Taiwan. Absolutely despicable. UPDATE II I have confirmed this with the source who was eyewitness. Overseas Taiwanese, beware. 職業學生 are everywhere...
A long-time observer of Taiwan affairs noted that, Beijing claimed that it had nothing to do with the hacking attacks and the flood of hatemail directed at the festival. If so, this person pointed out, then what are other nations to make of this army of fanatic nationalists that Beijing has no connections to and cannot control?
UGLY WATCH: An unreliable source claims liberal MP fronting for Beijing had Kadeer searched as she entered Aussie building to meet with MPs. If true, despicable.
UPDATE: Dalai Lama sends message of support to Kadeer.
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