Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Show of Remembrance

At the crack of dawn this morning, Tiananmen Square held a special flag-raising ceremony to mark the one-week anniversary of the Yushu earthquake. Hundreds of people turned out, reminiscent of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

Today was designated as a day of mourning and China Central Television (CCTV) showed images of officials dressed in black with white flowers on their left chests bowed in silence for three minutes.

"我们在一起" or "We are together" was the slogan of this morning's program, the anchors dressed in black suits and there were constant images of soldiers conducting relief work, but curiously, no shots of the Tibetan monks who were actually the first on the scene to try to help quake victims.

There were also shots of people watching last night's CCTV fund-raising show that had a backdrop of hands clasped together coming out of the rubble. The program included children from the quake-hit area in Beijing and still in dirty clothes putting on a brave face in front of senior officials who clapped. These officials then went up one by one each holding a big brown envelope and dropping them into a box, supposedly for donations.

And there were comments from overseas Chinese in various parts of the world, from Thailand and the United States to the UK and France, all showing their support for earthquake relief.

Just like Sichuan almost two years ago, the Chinese government was anxious to show it cared about the victims with these formal and ritualistic actions.

But unlike Sichuan where most of the people are Han, in Yushu, 97 percent of the population are Tibetan.

The Dalai Lama had requested permission to go to the quake-hit area to comfort the victims in their own language and culture.

However he was politely denied by the Chinese government, despite it saying it fully respected local religious beliefs and customs, and was offering counseling.

Hundreds of Tibetan students have been recruited as translators as many of the survivors do not speak Putonghua.

Do these people really feel they are a part of China? The government is eager to conduct its propaganda exercises through its quake relief efforts. Will it work? The government has to make sure it meets the needs of the people and show that it is culturally sensitive. It would win big political points by allowing the Dalai Lama into the area, but this will probably never happen and the people probably know not to request his presence either.

The government plans to rebuild Yushu into an eco-tourism town, which seems strange considering there was no tourism there in the first place. Is this an opportunity to cash in on grief?


1 comment:

gg said...

a fair gesture of mourning for the victims of yushu. the leadership should practise what they preached two years ago. their promises from the sichuan quake are still incomplete.