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I disagree with Alan’s characterization of “cowardice” in reference to the decision to secretly divert the Olympic Torch relay in San Francisco. I attended and live blogged a portion of the torch route on a supplemental team blog we set up for the purpose [Note: PG rating for language]. I walked the “route not taken” from Justin Herman Plaza to the planned start at the ball park and back again when it became clear the torch was heading another way.

I expected a carnival atmosphere and the kind of protest “circus” that only San Francisco can stage. I was not disappointed. The biggest surprise for me was the split within the San Francisco Chinese-American community. There was a lot of emotion on display with many arguments in the streets and we even witnessed a fist fight. I guess I assumed this was a one sided argument (Pro-Tibet), and had no idea about the depth of the division that exists in the community. It was almost as bad as between Obamites and Clintonistas. There were big crowds along the route lined with activists intent on stopping the run. There was a real potential for people to get hurt – including the torch bearers.

I think Mayor Gavin Newsom pulled this off brilliantly. The torch run in Paris was a wake-up call. In San Francisco, they got the message. No one was hurt, there were minimal arrests, the Chinese got a completed face saving ceremony and photo op, while much of the city was turned over to protesters. They, in turn, were permitted to vent their collective and variegated spleens with the media attention they craved for their respective causes. Entertainment was provided and fun was had by all.

The oppression of Tibet by China is a deadly serious issue. The San Francisco Olympic Torch Relay protest was not. I am glad it stayed that way.

5 COMMENTS

  1. The interesting thing is, I didn’t really notice any kind of “split” within the Chinese-American community at all. Almost all the ethnic Chinese I saw were smiling waving PRC flags (a few American socialists had come out to support Beijing as well) but I only saw one “Another Chinese-American for a Free Tibet.” I saw one “Taiwan” baseball cap. I actually looked hard for Chinese people either opposing the Chinese government or supporting Tibet. On the Chinese news last night, pretty much everyone interviewed speaking Chinese expressed dismay at the protesters. Many of the Chinese people I talked to claimed Han Chinese felt pride at China hosting a Games, regardless of the government, but all the counterprotesters seemed to be Mandarin speakers bused in from the Peninsula, or further out. I couldn’t find any old school Chinatown heads, who maybe didn’t care too passionately either pro-Mainland or pro-Tibet and didn’t feel like getting involved. I’m interested to talk to the Taiwan Chinese I know and see whether they, and their families, see the 2008 Olympics as a source of pride for all Chinese.

  2. George, Thanks for the kind words.

    Eric,
    You are clearly in a better position than me to appreciate the differing perspectives of Han and Mandarin speakers. I was just embarrassed to learn how ignorant I was of the views of so many of my Chinese-American neighbors in the City. Thanks for the comment, it was enlightening.

  3. Well, that’s kind of the point. I wish I could remember where I read this, maybe in the Chron, but I heard folks were getting bussed up from the Central Valley, as far out as Southern California… Whether they cared either way, I don’t think the vast, vast majority of San Francisco Chinese are strongly pro-PRC.

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