Column: Beijing Olympics trigger protests, boycotts and name-calling

The 2008 Beijing
Olympics have put the spotlight on China, bringing attention to the
conflict inTorch_2
Tibet and all the human rights abuses. Protesters disrupted Olympic
torch relays in San Francisco and other western cities, many of them holding
signs with stern messages for China such as “Free Tibet!” “Stop human rights
abuses!” and “Give us cheaper TVs now!”

Indian soccer star Bhaichung
Bhutia declined to run with the torch as "my way of standing by the people of
Tibet," while actor Aamir Khan vowed to run with the torch "not in support of
China" but "with a prayer in my heart for the people of Tibet."

Inspired by Khan, long jumper Anju Bobby George announced that she will
protest China’s human rights abuses by participating in the Beijing Olympics. "I
am participating in the Olympics not in support of China," she said, "but with a
prayer in my heart for the people of Tibet."

She pledged to lie on the
ground before every jump, extending her legs outward to form a ‘T.’ “It may
look like I’m stretching,” she said. “But I’m showing my support for

Just a day before the torch relay in India, cricket star Sachin Tendulkar pulled out of the event, saying that he had a groin injury. It’s believed that he suffered the injury while running away from Tibetan activists.

Indian officials were so worried about protests that they drastically shortened
the route of the torch relay, asking Khan to run with it from his bedroom to living room. He handed the torch to tennis star Leander Paes, who took it all
the way to the kitchen. Other celebrities then did mini-runs from one appliance to another.

The video was doctored for Chinese
television to show Khan and Paes running in front of the Taj Mahal, cheered on by thousands of people, including Mahatma Gandhi.

Meanwhile, CNN’s Jack Cafferty is in trouble with the Chinese for
calling them "goons and thugs," two of the worst insults that the FCC allows on American TV.

Saying that America imported Chinese-made "junk with the lead paint
on them and the poisoned pet food," Cafferty added: "They’re basically the same
bunch of goons and thugs they’ve been for the last 50 years.”

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu demanded an apology, saying, "We are
shocked at and strongly condemn the evil attack by the CNN anchor on the Chinese
people. How dare he call us goons and thugs? Not all of us are goons and

Indeed, a New York Times investigation has found that only 1
percent of Chinese are goons and thugs — and all of them work for the government.

Cafferty’s words have upset many of them, according to Jin Yao,
president of the National Association of Goons and Thugs. “He say we same goons
and thugs for last 50 years,” Yao said. “Is not true. We better goons and thugs
than before. We take government course.”

In other news, some folks in Britain are trying their best
to boycott everything from China. Harvey Wilson of London has stopped buying toys
from China, John Rowling of Oxford has stopped buying electronics from China, and Linda Scott of Birmingham has dumped her boyfriend, Chang

In Winnipeg, Canada, Gerald Smith, a retired bus driver who spends
most of his evenings at the local casino, said he’s getting rid of everything he
owns that’s made in China, including all his appliances, furniture, clothes and
teeth. Asked if he’s protesting a particular Chinese policy, Smith nodded and
pointed to the words on his T-shirt: “Free to bet!

Photo by Ricardo Ferreira

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. How d’you think of all this? Great read. Thanks.
    (via email)

  2. Anonymous says:

    I like this. Melvin, if you have happen to have the relay run video at home, (and doctored into a relay near Taj Mahal with the honored presence of Mr. Gandhi), please send me….. haha

  3. Wonderful and riveting write-up!
    (via email)

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