Kin-ming Liu at PostGlobal

Kin-ming Liu

Hong Kong

Former Washington-based columnist for The Hong Kong Standard, The New York Sun, and Insight on the News, an online weekly published by The Washington Times. Covered economic and political relations between the United States and East Asia, with an emphasis on China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Former chairman of the Hong Kong Journalists' Association. Currently a business executive at a Chinese-language newspaper in Hong Kong. Close.

Kin-ming Liu

Hong Kong

Former Washington-based columnist for The Hong Kong Standard, The New York Sun, and Insight on the News, an online weekly published by The Washington Times. more »

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The No-Fun Olympics

The Current Discussion: The Olympics open in two weeks, and offer a perfect platform for anti-government protests by ethnic minorities and dissident groups. Who's likely to protest and how should Beijing respond?

HONG KONG -- Short of declaring martial law, Beijing is doing all it can to ensure the Olympic Games -- to be opened at 8:08pm on August 8 -- will be a protest-free pageant. While the Chinese communists look very likely to achieve this aim, it's also turning the Games into a "no-fun Olympics."

As reported by Maureen Fan of the Washington Post: "In the run-up to the Games, authorities have jailed dissidents, warned activists not to cause trouble, closed bars frequented by foreigners, and deported or denied visas to people connected with groups critical of Chinese policy in Tibet and on the issue of Darfur." Setting up three designated protest zones, far away from the main stadiums, is a joke.

Nothing seriously embarrassing will happen in Beijing. Even though the torch rally faced some unpleasant moments in some Western countries, all protest ceased when it reached Chinese soil. (A handful of protesters in Hong Kong, this special administrative region in the People's Republic of China where the native tongue is Cantonese, not the mainland's Mandarin, were devastatingly overwhelmed by tens of thousands Mandarin-speaking cheerleaders.)

I believe security will be strong enough to prevent protesters from making any scene. Suppression won't, however, make the Olympics a real success. "The biggest challenge they have to face now is ensuring that the security doesn't suffocate the festival," Michael Payne, the International Olympic Committee's head of marketing for the two decades to 2004, told the Financial Times. "The Olympics are only special if there is a festival outside the venues." And Tom Pattinson, editor of English-language entertainment listings magazine Time Out Beijing, said the prospects for Games-time nightlife looked "very dull." "All those athletes who want to let their hair down and get drunk for the first time in four years are going to have a hard time doing it," he said. "Smile" was the advice Mr. Payne gave to the Beijing organizers.

"There is no point in having a 'coming-out party' if you are not going to come out and enjoy yourself," wrote Victor Mallet, a Financial Times columnist. True enough. However, I'm afraid that a "coming-out party," like other goodies such as "democracy," "human rights," "freedom," etc., may have completely different meanings in the eyes of the Chinese. The main obsession of the Chinese government, shared by a lot of the Chinese people, is to wipe out, once and for all, the humiliation imposed on the Middle Kingdom by the West in the last two hundred years. "Beat it," not "welcome," should be the main theme. Foreign athletes competing with the host team, beware. Thunder-like booing and even violent reception will likely greet you. Ask the Japanese soccer team what happened when they beat the Chinese team a few years ago.

Beijing is hosting a very different kind of party. More traditional "hutong" neighborhoods have been razed for new architecture which, while grand, don't have much to do with China itself. The Bird's Nest, the National Stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies would be held, was designed by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and the Swiss architectural firm Herzog & deMeuron. The Water Cube, the National Swimming Center, was designed by Australia's PTW Architects. The National Center for Performing Arts, like a titanium-clad flying saucer, was the work of France's Paul Andreu. The CCTV Tower, with its twisted-doughnut profile, was designed by Rem Koolhaas and his Dutch design firm, in collaboration with the Arup engineers. The giant arching sweep of the new terminal at Beijing Capital International Airport was designed by Britain's Norman Foster. And the Olympic Green, which includes an avenue connecting the Forbidden City and the National Stadium, was done by Albert Speer, the son of the chief architect to Hitler.

David Tang, arguably Hong Kong's most colorful personality, hit the bull's eye when he captured the essence of modern China in a recent column in the British magazine The Spectator: it makes no excuses for copying the West, except in its democratic niceties.

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