Sunday, August 09, 2009

China Goes Nuts on Melbourne Film Festival

One of the themes of the estimable China blog Peking Duck is its constant review of China's inept public relations move with the rest of the world. I'm sure if Richard weren't taking a break, he'd have much to say about Beijing's thuggish reaction to the Melbourne Film Festival and its screening of a film about Rebiya Kadeer, the Uighur leader. The latest threat comes directly from Beijing's man in Oz, Shen Weilan, as The Age editorializes (scroll down):
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 The festival has been subject to death threats and cyber attacks, while three Chinese films have been withdrawn.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.

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.
The Age's news report of China's bullying is here. It notes:
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.

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

China needs the trade as well. They keep threatening to take their ball and go home, but they need playmates if they want to realize their ambitions.

Unfortunately, foreign governments are too often in competition with each other to cooperate against Beijing's tactics and just continue to play ball.

Tommy said...

What I still can't get over is how the Chinese have not realized yet that the bigger deal you make about a cause, the more people will be attracted to that cause. It is the theme of s song from the musical "The Fantastiks", entitled "Never Say No".

"Dog's got to bark, a mule's got to bray.
Soldiers must fight and preachers must pray.
And children, I guess, must get their own way
The minute that you say no."

This whole thing is making Kadeer look like the innocent victim of oppression, and in this case she certainly is. Moreover, the leadership fails to consider how the image of Australia would be affected if the film were pulled. This has already grown to the point where the festival can't back down without taking a hit.

Anonymous said...

It could be that the government isn't directly involved in the attacks and hate... Afterall, when the implanted all this nationalist bullshit in the Chinese peoples hearts, they created a monster that tends to get easily out of control.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:32

The PRC wields immense power over people's "private" lives and if the government disapproves of a citizens "private" behavior there will be consequences. Chinese know this. When we see these "spontaneous" nationalistic outbursts, it is likely orchestrated by the PRC government. Compare the Tibetan, Schichuanese, Uigher and other "unauthorized" movements and uprisings, against the "spontaneous" uprisings following the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia.

Taiwan's government orchestrated similar "public" outbursts. Following the US switching diplomatic recognition to China there were protests in which Warren Christopher's car was attacked. In an authoritarian state this wouldn't be allowed.

If it happened abroad without the government's approval, there would be consequences back home.

This looks to be more the work of Chinese intelligence agents.

Michael Turton said...

Actually, the "protests" against Christopher were organized by the KMT government, anon.

Michael Turton said...

What I still can't get over is how the Chinese have not realized yet that the bigger deal you make about a cause, the more people will be attracted to that cause. It is the theme of s song from the musical "The Fantastiks", entitled "Never Say No".

I don't get that one either, but one thing MOFA people here have said is that there is a hidden bureacratic dynamic: the more the diplomats abroad behave like assholes, the more points they score with their masters at home. Much of this posturing isn't aimed at Melbourne, but at Beijing.

Anonymous said...

"Actually, the "protests" against Christopher were organized by the KMT government, anon."

Sorry, that is what I was implying. I should have added "if they didn't want it to". The KMT would not allow civil unrest... unless it wanted it. Just as China does the same. These are not spontaneous events, but orchestrated by government agencies to appear spontaneous as an unofficial means of government protest.

Regular citizens would not risk sticking their necks out like that.

hcpen said...

oh pls, i love ur wonderful blog and its stand, along with many taiwanese expats, on taiwan's independence and sovereignty and critiquing the KMT government which i feel is MUCH needed when mainstream media, news and tv, is so pro pan-blue..but can't we stop with this one-sided anti-china attacks?? It's getting very frustrating everytime, i visit prc websites i love how they report on the remarkable progress china has made in both economic development as well as human rights development (YES, much has changed since 1979) believe it or not BUT hate their unbudging stance on Taiwan and stubborn insistence on Taiwan being 'part of China' when its bright as day it isn't. However, it is equally annoying when i come to blogs like urs which i love visiting for its informative information on KMT failings which the mainstream media tend to play down as well as admire u r defence of Taiwan's soverignty, but your type of blog is the complete opp. of PRC ones...when they say DPP and Taiwan independence is 100% BS your blog seems to be criticising China 100% of the time..why can't you all be abit more neutral and balanced?? Why do you feel the need to always say how bad China is just to prove the point that Taiwan shouldn't be reunified with China at all? China is doing very well on all fronts for anyone familiar with its history where it came from as well as comparisons with neighbouring countries whom are actually much more dictatorial in many ways but tend not to hit the int'l radar...also using words like 'chinese colonialism of xinjiang' is thoroughly manipulative and unhelpful..cos that can be said of tons of countries in the world, so what's the point of putting it in such negative terms? I mean one can argue Taiwan Hoklos and Han are now 'colonial masters' of the oppressed san di people in Taiwan right? Or that America has 'brutally killed and is now practicing semi-genocide' on the native americans? Or Australia is killing off the aborigines with its systematic 'brutal racist colonial' policies in the NT right now? Get my point..its how you wanna put it..if you continue to just bash china on every single thing, from human rights to food safety to xinjiang/tibet, your blog loses credibility and sounds just like the mirror version of nationalistic PRC blogs, just parroting the opp. versions..have a thought, really:-)

Dixteel said...


It is indeed interesting that China does not seem to care to attract attentions, and is really acting like an asshole.

However...doesn't this tactics work well so far? Even though they act like thugs, other countries, including Taiwan, don't seem to mind. Main stream media like CNN does not seem to mind. 6-party talk goes on indefinitely while Chairman Kim continue his nuclear quest and Beijing continue to use NK as a leverage. Obama administration is signaling a closer coorperation with China on the economic front.

It seems the more thuggish China acts, the more they get. So why not?

Michael Turton said...

Thanks, HCPEN.

My blog doesn't discuss native americans or australian aborigines, but I would write of the way european colonialism killed so many of them, if it did. If you don't want to think about chinese colonialism in Xinjiang, Tibet, and elsewhere, that's fine. Other people will. Describing reality isn't negative. It just is.

Also, I've written extensively on han colonialism in Taiwan against the local aborigines. It's an important political factor in aborigine lives in Taiwan.

I don't subscribe to the "look how far they've come" thesis because I focus mainly on china's foreign policy, which is belligerent, colonialist, and expansionist (ask the Tibetans and Uighurs). Probably if this were a china blog and not a taiwan blog, i'd have more to say about chinese internal affairs.


Anonymous said...


I might also add that the relativist-gradualist outlook on China attempts to draw attention away from China as a regional neo/colonial hegemon, as the actions of China greatly effect the entire region.

As China continues to expand its colonial project internally and externally toward Taiwan and other Asian nations, more criticism is needed to help us better understand the dynamics of political change so that we may best assess the motivations, risks, and opportunities in dealing with a growing China, which is often regarded as "special", "mysterious" and "unknowable".

Michael does a fabulous job of fairly analyzing China and its relationships with the rest of the world based on widely held standards of definition backed by tested theory that can be applied evenly to all nations.

Keep it up Michael!

john said...

Hi Michael,
Here is a link to an New Zealand Herald article about Chinese diplomats here in NZ pressuring Maori Television not to show this movie. A Maori Television current affairs sow also has an interview with this Uighur leader too.