Bloggers are worried about the Chinese crackdown on protests in Tibet and making fun of both saggy pants and the ordinances outlawing them.
Lhasa trouble: Renewed violence broke out in Tibet's capital city of Lhasa Monday as police began arresting hundreds of Tibetans for participating in protests against Chinese rule last weekend. Tibet's governor acknowledged 16 deaths in the riots, while other sources put the figure at 80 or more. The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, has called China's response to the protests "cultural genocide." The crackdown came just days after the Bush administration removed China from a list of the world's worst human rights violators. All this, with the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing only months away ...
Shanghaiist presents a handy list of "recommended reads" while organizations like the International Campaign for Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet offer frequent updates. Kadfly, a tourist who happened to arrive in Lhasa just in time for the uprising, posted photos and compelling firsthand descriptions of events on the street. (His reports have been reproduced and widely circulated on other blogs.)
A quiet morning stroll down Beijing Street turned into running away with a crowd of Tibetans as an empty PLA convoy pulled through. Maybe 100 meters further there was a massive crowd of Tibetans surrounding a narrow alleyway. As it turned out, they were throwing stones and abuse at PLA soldiers who were blockading the passage to a monastery. After a minute or two, everyone rushed the PLA blockade and burst through …
Up until this point the entire situation was almost jovial: there was no sign of danger whatsoever (unless you were a PLA soldier). Then things started getting out of control. Shops were taken apart, buses filled with passengers were attacked, motorcyclists were stoned. We fled into the relative safety of a nearby hotel as attention began to be drawn to us and from there we saw the street and nearby stores get ripped apart and more violence.
On BoingBoing, Xeni Jardin has posted camera-phone photos and videos of the Tibet protests and reports that China is blocking its citizens' access to YouTube and other Web sites, "likely because of content related to the flood of pro-Tibetan-sovereignty protests in Tibet and elsewhere." Dan Kennedy at Media Nation predicts, "If this keeps building, we're going to see whether the Age of the Internet is more powerful than the Age of Fax. In 1989, the Chinese democracy movement—fueled in part by mass-circulated faxes—came to a horrifying end in Tiananmen Square. … [N]ow, even more than in 1989, the whole world is watching."
Black and White Cat points Chinese readers to proxies through which they can access blocked Web sites, but doesn't stop there. The accounts of the rioting from the perspective of Han Chinese living in Lhasa might come as a shock to Americans accustomed to viewing the conflict in simple terms of Buddhist monks vs. Communist soldiers: "[S]o far the killing and violence seems to have been carried out by the rioters, not the police or military." An angry post at Chinese in Vancouver asks, "Were the rioters, stoning and killing Han Chinese, not violating human rights of another people? To the westerners, letting the Tibetan rioters free-killing Han Chinese on the streets is 'respect for human rights'? I deduce that the West just plainly don't believe Han Chinese are humans."
So, with tensions running high, is discussion on this subject possible? asks former CNN Beijing correspondent Rebecca MacKinnon at RConversation. She references a Reuters roundup on the topic that begins, "A look at Chinese blogs reveals a vitriolic outpouring of anger and nationalism directed against Tibetans and the West." Commenter Clarence Chen illustrates the difficulty of having that conversation: "What is there to discuss? These riots are obviously orchestrated by the Dalai Lama. He is an opportunist who took the same tack in 1959 and 1989." Fellow commenter Tom Daai Tou Laam concludes, "The question is really how can you have a discussion under strict censorship. Perhaps a 'guided conversation,' but there is no way to have a two way discussion."
But Dave at Tenement Palm keeps hope alive and urges concerned "netizens" to converse directly with their Chinese counterparts via Web 2.0 tools like Twitter and Fanfou; he even provides a visual tutorial so readers can sign up for the services. "Instead of dismissing each other as fools, how about we try to talk? … [I]ts time to start trying some things instead of just throwing our hands in the air and dismissing the other side as brainwashed, indoctrinated or oppressed."
Read more about the Tibet protests.
How low can you go? A rash of local ordinances outlawing the ubiquitous street style of "sagging"—pants riding below the waist far enough to expose the wearers' boxers, briefs, or naughty bits—gained momentum last week when the Florida state senate passed a bill that would suspend students who show their unmentionables. Earlier in the week, voters in Riviera Beach, Fla., approved a law that punishes anyone wearing droopy drawers in public, with penalties ranging from community service to 60 days in jail for repeat offenders. The "pull up your pants" initiative has even caught on in Trenton, N.J. Opinion in the blogosphere varies on which is stupider: the style or the legislation.
Susan Daniels is a former Slate staffer. She lives in Amsterdam.