Friday, June 08, 2007

Commies Won - Freedom Of Expression Nil

Nobody comes to Blue Blooded Journo for politics, and I mean nobody. In fact, a lot less soccer fans would stop by and a lot more wackos with their high horses on soapboxes would if I ever began spouting off my brand of politico. That's something I do my best to avoid. However, I'm making an exception this time after reading about what occurred at the friendly between RSL and the Chinese national team last night in Salt Lake City.

According to a first hand account on the Fire John Ellinger site, several RSL fans and Tibetan ex-pats were told to put away their ROC (Taiwan) and Tibetan flags. This was followed by someone who appeared to be a PRC political officer demanding the flags be removed and a Tienanmen Square protest banner be taken down. The game was actually stopped in the 60th minute with the Chinese team threatening to walk off the field. One fan was booted from the stadium and several people were asked to relinquish their flags to security even after they stopped waiving them.



I'm usually hard on RSL management, but I can't blame them for not seeing this coming. In my opinion, they were just reacting to a situation in which they were blindsided. If they did nothing, the Chinese team may have walked off the field and it could have created an international incident. However, this does raise some issues in regards to freedom of expression.

In this country, you have the right to speak your mind, but you don't have the right to be heard. In other words, you can't interrupt a funeral of a fallen soldier to yell "I'm happy he's dead" if you are a hippie and you can't walk on stage at a comedy club and preach the Bible just because you feel the audience needs saving. However, you do have the right to non-intrusively voice your political opinions, which is what occurred last night. In China, you absolutely can not speak out against the government. Even if it's in a social setting, voicing your opposition will result in you getting "taken away" by the police.

So why does China get a free pass on the world stage? Besides the normal grievances by Amnesty International, little is said about these basic human rights violations. The reason is that, although it still has an authoritative political regime, China has moved to a strong free market manufacturing-based economy. The world's largest economies rely on cheap goods from their country. In return, China does the right thing and reinvests it's surplus cash in foreign government bonds, thus stabilizing the world's currencies. If they hadn't done this, there would have been crippling inflation in China and erratic fluctuations in world markets. China has also allowed foreign corporations to take up shop in their country and participate in their growth. In other words, China has been a a good economic partner to the world and there is a symbiotic relationship which world leaders don't want to break up.

Politics and soccer are no strangers. Opposing fans will often use such issues to dig into their opponents. Mostly, it's done just to get a reaction and throw them off their game. Supporters, for the most part, do not have political agendas. They just hate their opponents on gameday. The most vivid example of this for American soccer fans would be the 2005 World Cup qualifier in Mexico. Their fans were very vicious with their "9/11" and "Osama" chants. There was enough animosity to fill three dump trucks, but that was all about riling up our players as opposed to advancing a political agenda.

However, there have been rivalries down the years which have had deep political roots. Rangers-Celtic, Barcelona-Real Madrid, and River Plate-Boca Juniors are some of the more famous ones. Opposing fans have had conflicting views on important issues and these rivalries have reached a boiling point resulting in bloodshed. To Americans, this is a foreign concept. The only thing like even remotely close to it in American sports would be the Canadiens-Maple Leafs rivalry a few decades back and that has mellowed out over the years.

Getting back to last night, protests have been an important part of American culture since the 60's. We in this country take pride in the fact we can voice our opinion as a group when we feel it is necessary. We also know the rules and often work within the system to ensure our voices are heard, yet no one will have their own civil liberties violated in the process. What went on last night wasn't large enough in scale to cause a disturbance. RSL has every right to remove anything they feel is offensive. However, a simple flag isn't offensive unless it's a symbol of hate. I guess the Chinese officials were taken aback by the fact they weren't allowed to take those fans into custody, which is surely what would have happened in their homeland. Sorry guys, that's not how we do things here.

Take this opportunity to educate yourself on the history of Taiwan and Tibet, as well as human rights violations in China. The 2008 Olympics are in Beijing and the world will be talking about these things soon enough. Just be sure they aren't trying to pull the wool over our eyes when they do.

9 Comments:

Donk said...

Thanks for the link. I enjoyed your article. We were peacefully waving flags, if they have a problem with this, fine.

Judge said...

Thanks for using my video.

sha said...

I think if you don't do double standard, then it is OK.

For example, if during Bejing Olympics, we have few Talibans waving a flag and have "Genocide Iraq" signs, and Osama chants, what Americans will feel?

Remember how UK goes after that guy wavering an airplane against Reyna? If I am US players when Mexican fans chanting Osama, sorry, I will walk off the field.

Blue Blooded Journo said...

Sha: The US players didn't walk off the field, and they are used to abuse when traveling there.

Also, that Celtic "supporter" received a lifetime ban from Celtic because he disgraced the club and they didn't want to associate themselves in any way with what he did.

That's totally different than what happened in Salt Lake. RSL wouldn't have taken any action if the communist party members there didn't object.

oussan said...

Very nice post. In "kowtowing" to the Chinese handler, RSL's FO missed an opportunity to educate the Chinese in the meaning of the word "freedom."

I hope this will not be the last time the Chinese face this sort of protest in the United States.

kj said...

Just to clarify, Beijing is hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Jimmy Chowda said...

Thanks, kj. My maths are a bit off.

Adrian said...

I can't figure out why my blog isn't showing up in your "links to this post," but here it is.

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