There are some things that the Chinese Government clearly doesn’t understand. The rule of law, for instance. Or that being out-negotiated in commercial dealings doesn’t necessarily reflect the fact that your counterparts spied on you. That shifting millions of your people into an occupied country isn’t likely to go down well with the original inhabitants.
Public relations is another. Two months ago, virtually no Australians would have heard of Rabiya Kadeer or the Uyghur people. While days of mayhem and violence in Urumqi in July might have raised the profile of the Uyghur cause, it has only been China’s clumsy efforts to censor all mention of Kadeer that have given her priceless publicity in this country. What would have been a non-event visit celebrated by some Bob Brown press releases suddenly became interesting. Criticising the Melbourne International Film Festival, complete with attacks by sinofascist hackers on both the MIFF (yes I spelt that right) websites and any others that mentioned Melbourne Festivals, was a good start. Demanding Australia not let Kadeer in gave the issue momentum.
But trying to get the National Press Club to cancel Kadeer’s address today went much further. Not merely did it get The Australian, not exactly the most Sinophobic media outlet around, upset, but it aroused the interest of the Press Gallery. Suddenly, now, the national media wants to cover the yarn. Even yesterday, there was little interest in covering Kadeer’s address today. But The Australian’s revelations about Chinese pressure on the NPC changed all that, given an otherwise nondescript story about China’s internal ethnic troubles a local angle. Public relations gold for Kadeer and, for that matter, the Press Club.
The only question now is whether the Chinese will complete the promotional opportunity by coordinating the protest of some local and bussed-in Chinese students against “splittists” and “western interference in Chinese internal affairs”.
There’s no doubting the nationalist feelings of Chinese students in Australia or the level of malice toward Uyghurs. At the Olympic torch ceremony in Canberra last year, the one point at which things looked like getting out of hand — if you weren’t one of the many Australian protesters mobbed by ranting Chinese students — was when a small group of Uyghurs marched out of the area in which the ceremony was being held. This prompted a surge of several hundred flag-waving students to rush the barricades nearby and scream abuse at the silent marchers. The hate in the eyes of those students was real and should worry the Paul Keatings of the world who think “the rise of China” will necessarily be a peaceful affair.
The Oz editorialised against the Chinese Government, rightly. But, really, China should be encouraged to keep conducting itself in exactly the way it has been. It serves to promote the cause of its opponents in ways they could never manage themselves.