The Beijing Olympic games have brought any number of fascinating stories, some of which the Chinese authorities would very much have liked to keep under wraps.
There is, for example, the story of two elderly women who were inadequately compensated after their homes were taken from them, having the misfortune of being located in the way of some Olympic venue. Authorities reportedly announced that quiet protests would be allowed in a certain area, with permits.
The two ladies, both hobbling on canes, went to apply for the permits — and were arrested as troublemakers, then sentenced to a year of “re-education” in a labor camp. Such “Catch 22” laws are bound to make the population nervous.
Meanwhile, controversy continues to surround China’s alleged fudging of passports for three young gymnasts, moving their birthdays backward so they would appear old enough to compete. Gymnastic officials are now calling for an investigation that could result in some medal standings being rejiggered.
China’s apparent single-minded emphasis on winning the maximum number of gold medals, and the system of “sports camps” that take children from parents is easily criticized, but last night I was reminded that it’s important for us to view the Chinese people as individuals, not just cells in a megalomanic juggernaut.
After Chen Roulin performed a near-perfect dive to win the platform diving competition, she cried.
However she was educated, wherever she has been required to live, no matter how many hours a day she must train to achieve near-mechanical perfection, she remains a very human person.
It is easy to criticize China’s government, but also easy — and important — to love China’s people.