Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Two incidents

What a difference ethnicity makes.  Or the protective wall of the nation. Or whatever you want to call it. 

The images out of Weng'an County, Guizhou Province---a burning Public Security Bureau building, young people brandishing sharp pieces of metal, overturned vehicles---remind me of nothing in the past year more than the uprising in Lhasa.  

Yet while large numbers of Chinese netizens responded to the Weng'an incident (which erupted after it was believed that official connections let a pair of young men off the hook for the rape and murder of a girl) with creative runs around the censors, scorn for local authorities, and (sometimes) outright support for the protesters / rioters, they responded to the Lhasa incident by calling for censorship (of CNN, for example), by backing the government and by showing absolute fury at the protesters / rioters.

Obviously, this is an oversimplification.  There HAS been reflection in China on Tibet and some brave gestures of solidarity by Han Chinese for Tibetans.   

And the overtones of the two incidents are quite different: one brought with it associations of national dignity and the Olympic Games and China's place in the world; the other was fully "internal" and may have stood in for other examples of corruption in the recent past (such as corruption surrounding the quake) that people swallowed in the name of unity but couldn't keep down much longer.

But the distance / closeness felt by netizens for different people, their immediate sympathies, couldn't be sharper.

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