26 May 2008
No Torch For You
As all 6+ billion people on this planet are now aware, China is hosting the Olympics this year and the torch is traveling around the World to what one might call “mixed reviews.” Well, it’s back in China and now making the rounds from South to North, East to West. It’s been to the top of Mount Everest, the streets of Hong Kong, the back roads outside Kunming and now, through the Central Eastern cities of Hangzhou and Shanghai.
Little did we laowei (foreigners) know that this would mean no booking hotel rooms and for some, no leaving our apartments for the duration of the torches stay in the streets. A friend of Lianne’s had gone to Hangzhou for a weekend getaway only to walk into a Youth Hostel and be told that “no foreigners can stay in the city.” While the reason was not explicitly stated, with the torch arriving the next day one might posit that they have been the reason.
Later that evening we were at a friend’s house to learn that several folks in the group were told by the guards at their apartment compounds that they would “not be allowed to leave the building between 7am and 2pm on Saturday” for, get this, “their safety.” Shockingly (read sarcasm), that was the same period of time the torch would be traveling through the streets of the city.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the torch protests have had people up in arms around the World (it even led to boycotts of some French stores here in China, though that lasted all of 3 days), but what foreigner would be dimwitted enough to protest the host nation actually IN the host nation, especially when said host nation could very well determine your own personal fate? Can anybody say deportation? At the same time, would you really want to be trampled by the 1.4 billion, increasingly nationalistic (thanks in large part to those same protests abroad) Chinese who are overwhelmingly excited to host their first Olympic games? I’m going to go with NO.