Friday, June 18, 2010

Russel's a Norman

NZ is currently hosting a visit by the Chinese Vice-President, Xi Jinpin. We have a free trade agreement with China, which is supposedly a good thing - I'm not sure if there's been an increase of cheap Chinese crap in the two dollar shops or the Warehouse lately but apparently we're selling more stuff over there so that's all good.

Anyway, Dr Russel Norman, former member of the Australian Communist Party, now a NZ citizen and co-leader of the NZ Communist - sorry, Green - Party (these days its not just colour blind people that think red and green look the same!), took it upon himself to abuse his position of responsibility as a Member of Parliament and demand "democracy" for the people of Tibet while waving a Tibetan flag, in a clear publicity stunt. He was manhandled by Chinese security and has filed charges against them.

The Background

China invaded Tibet shortly after Mao's Communists had consolidated control within the mainland. At the time Tibet was being ruled as a feudal theocracy by a Buddhist monastocratic elite (that word probably doesn't exist, but it means monk-rulers) who prevented the majority of the population from learning to read and kept them in perpetual servitude under the "benevolent rule" of the Dalai Lama, their spiritual leader. Most of the Tibetan people were living in worse conditions than English serfs during the time of Robin Hood. China invaded, overthrew the monastic elite, and began modernising the state: Tibet was strategically important to the security of the new Communist power, and at this time it was looking uneasily towards the Indian border (China and India ended up going to war in the early 1970s). The Dalai Lama eventually escaped into exile and since then has been encouraging a 'Free Tibet' movement, which has some enthusiastic followers here in NZ as well as around the world. Most of the supporters of the Tibetan independence movement have no idea what conditions were like under Buddhist rule and do not appreciate that, by and large, the Tibetan people now enjoy a much higher standard of living and have much better prospects than they had before the Chinese invasion.

The Situation

A peaceful protest was being conducted not far from where the Chinese Vice-President was, in accordance with NZ law and custom. Many of the protestors seemed to be members of Falun Gong rather than any Free Tibet movement, but that's beside the point. Dr Norman, as a Member of Parliament, was accorded access to the Vice President which is normally denied to the public. In an act of blatant disregard for the obligations inherent to his position, he chose to wave a Tibetan flag in front of the Vice President and make various demands concering the Tibetan people. Now, if a representative of the Palestinian National Authority came to visit and you had an MP wave an Israeli flag at him, there would be an outcry, just as would have been the case even 20 years ago if an Israeli government official had visited and someone yelled at him while waving a Nazi swastika. (I say 20 years ago because I am sure Norman and his ilk would quite happily wave swastikas in front of Israeli officials these days.) The Chinese security accompanying Xi Jinpin, obviously not accustomed to our way of handling things, grabbed Dr Norman and pulled the flag off him. TV coverage of the event is quite funny, actually - he bleats like a little child who has had a lollipop taken off him: "give me back my flag, give me back my flag!" Well, I laughed anyway. Following the incident the Greens co-leader announced his intention of laying charges against the Chinese for manhandling him.

My Opinion

I don't particularly like the way the Chinese government does things, and have in fact conducted my own boycott of Chinese made goods since just before the Beijing Olympics, which I did not watch. However, this man was (and still is) a guest in our country. Protestors were permitted to demonstrate at a distance, so as to prevent any potential security risk such as suicide bombers or other similar attacks (you can't be too careful these days, even in NZ). Russel Norman is a member of parliament, and as such he has a level of dignity and mana which he must maintain as a representative of the people of this country. In the past week we've seen some MPs fail in this regard - Shane Jones and his use of a ministerial credit card to pay for porn in a hotel room being only the most obvious example - and today we've seen another epic failure. Dr Norman has the right to protest, just like all NZers. But if he wanted to do so, he should have been with the other protestors. Abusing his rank and position to conduct a protest is way beyond the pale.

Quite frankly, he's a dick.

That's my two cents to sense.

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