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Divided realities
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I’m someone who has never been a fan of the Olympics, and admit I know nothing about it. So Beijing’s ‘big win’ to host the 2008 Olympics never really registered with me. Until now. Until recent events. What can I say? I know more about the history of Tibet than the history of the Olympics. The history of Tibet is of course a billion times more complicated, and China can still improve its policy on Tibet. But before it could do that, it had to send in the army to stop the rioting. Any country would send in the army if the whole main street, in any city in the country, was burned down by rioters, any rioters. Then the international community should urge restraint, yes, press the Chinese government to offer amnesty and even to talk with Tibetan exile organizations, to acknowledge grievances. Instead, all this barrage of Olympic torch-relay farcical coverage took place, and before you know it you are staring at the long-hidden, until now well-managed, anti-Chinese feelings.

Suffice to say, we like many others have been very distressed by the rampant anti-Chinese feelings, and blatant displays of ignorance and distortion, in the Canadian and other English media. Some two weeks ago a group of Chinese students organized a demonstration (in Toronto's Dundas Square) against biased coverage in the Canadian media. Then a group of Chinese Canadians in Ottawa organized a demonstration on Parliament Hill for last Sunday. The Toronto group immediately responded by renting some 50 school buses to travel to Ottawa to show support (those earlier students also managed to rent a few buses using the money they had collected from the earlier downtown Toronto demonstration).

Laidlaw, the big bus company, cancelled their order less than two days before the event. While the Toronto group scrambled to find alternative transportation means to go to Ottawa, a Chinese Canadian businessman pulled out enough money and chartered 60 coach buses. Last Sunday, the buses, and probably 200 to 300 cars, left Toronto at 7:30 am for Ottawa. Busloads of people also came from Montreal. There were thousands of people (Canadian Chinese-language media estimated 10,000) on Parliament Hill by early noon April 13 in Ottawa. But when we watched the evening news on the two major national TV channels, not a word was said about the demonstration, massive but especially by Canadian standards; and not a word in the national newspapers. When my brother later did an internet search, the only mainstream media that came up was from the local Ottawa paper only. How can they talk about balanced and fair coverage?

We are very regular news readers in English and Chinese ('news addicts'), and had carefully followed the development of this in the local Chinese newspapers (especially the Hong Kong-based daily Ming Pao and Taiwan-based daily World Journal, which have an international readership); how it started weeks ago, how the numbers of people got bigger by the day in the week before April 13th, and how the genuine community momentum culminated. And the Chinese Embassy had nothing to do with it. Yes, concerned people donated money for the buses, but 'rich business interests' were not behind it, since it was clear that it was a real massive groundswell. Even earlier, the uneven mainstream press coverage on Chinese Canadian sentiments had made clear the widespread strong feelings throughout the community against distorted coverage and supporting China.

We had been placing bets on how 'little' coverage this event would get in the national English-language media. We just never expected basically zero coverage. I am not sure I've gotten over this yet. The whole thing was almost spooky. It is like living in two worlds and each has its own reality.

The author is a retired teacher living in Toronto for over 40 years.

(China.org.cn April 21, 2008)

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