President Xi’s ‘outstanding success’ in controlling the public dissent in mainland China and colonies like Tibet, Xinjiang, S. Mongolia and Hong Kong during the Beijing Winter Olympics-2008 is a testimony to the power and grip of the CCP apparatus over China.
With the conclusion of Winter Olympics-2022 in Beijing, President Xi Jinping and his fellow communist rulers of China must be feeling relieved for a very special reason. Unlike during the countdown months to the Beijing Olympics-2008, there was no news of big anti-Beijing demonstrations either inside or outside China. President Xi has all the more reasons to congratulate himself for his achievement that the world did not hear any news about anti-China uprisings or public demonstrations in Tibet, Xinjiang, ‘Inner’ Mongolia or Hong Kong as in sharp contrast to what happened on the eve of 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Outside China too, he did not have to face endless demonstrations at Chinese embassies which started in 2001 with the pitching for Beijing as the venue for 2008-Olympics and went on till the last leg of the Olympic torch’s run from Athens to Beijing in 2008. The demonstrations were so widespread and massive that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was compelled to give up for good the practice of carrying the Olympic Torch through all major capitals on its way to the new venue. Only major exception this time was a small demonstration by human rights activists from Europe and America during the torch ceremony at Acropolis in Greece on 18th October 2021. Interestingly, this symbolic demonstration too was obediently crushed by the Greek police in a far more efficient, though crude, manner than a real colony of China in Europe could have done.
To add further colours to the joy and satisfaction of President Xi, the IOC, especially its President Thomas Bach, went out of their way to shield Xi and his security apparatus from any international criticism on the human rights record of the Chinese government. Thomas Bach made no efforts to hide that he intended to ensure that no public criticism of China was aired during the two ceremonies in Greece. The Greek police and the Chinese embassy agents plucked and pushed out all those from among even the paid audience of torch ceremony who even remotely resembled a Tibetan, Uyghur, Mongol or could be a potential American or European HR activist.
Shedding all pretense of impartiality, and even the traditional Olympic decency, Bach took it on himself to do the goal keeping for the Chinese government when Peng Shui, a woman Tennis champion and a famous sports star of China made public allegations of repeated sexual molestation by a Vice-Premier ranking communist colleague of President Xi. When the international media laughed out Bach’s claims that Peng Shui was safe in China and that she had never made such allegations against the communist leader, Bach went on to organize a personal video call with the Chinese sports star from the IOC office to convince the world media that everything was fine with Peng Shui and that the CCP and the Chinese government were clean in this sex controversy. The conduct of Bach was surely in sharp contrast to his own statements in which he had been condemning the HR activists and their anti-China demonstrations as an attempt to ‘politicize’ the Olympic Games. “Expecting that Olympic Games can fundamentally change a country, its political system or its laws, is a completely exaggerated expectation….. the IOC had to remain politically neutral in order to represent all competing nations and respect universality”, he had announced in Berlin on last Dec 7.
The success of President Xi on the information and image fronts was surely not for no reason. It was so perfectly managed and organized that this Chinese experience can now be used a text book example for any regime, democratic or dictatorial, on how to manage success and good image in such a complex situation. One major factor for Xi’s success was the 2008 Olympics experience of his Gestapo like security force Public Security Bureau (PSB) and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) who have distinguished themselves in crushing any public dissent before it could be expressed openly. With the help of hundreds of millions of CCTV cameras and application of artificial intelligence, the CCP can now monitor and control every potential trouble maker in China as well as in its Chinese colonies. Digital and visual patterns in CCP control rooms can monitor the movement of individuals and marked members of potential trouble makers. Using the movement patterns of people on the digital systems, the PSB agents can arrive at a potential trouble spot much before any group can gathers there for holding a meeting or a demonstration.
A rigid control over the movement of news and information from inside mainland China, Tibet, Xinjiang and South Mongolia too has contributed as a multiplying factor in protecting the Chinese government from any adverse international publicity. China’s ever expanding money control and influence over a sizeable international media has further helped Xi and his colleagues in maintaining a ‘clean’ international image.
Before going ahead with the Beijing Winter Olympics, the history of Tibetan uprising during the run up to 2008-Beijing-Olympics was fresh in the memory of President Xi and his CCP colleagues. They surely did not want even a fraction of similar events to be repeated this time. More than 125 public demonstrations of Tibetans were held in 54 towns and cities, most of them outside what China calls as ‘Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR)’. Held between March 2008 and beginning of Olympics in Beijing in August same year these events and had left over a hundred Tibetans shot dead and thousands arrested. But before these riots could be controlled by PSB and PLA with the help of recently brought in Han settlers in these towns, the news and images of these demonstrations had already splashed across the world media to expose Tibetan people’s unhappiness and resistance to the Chinese occupation.
The effectiveness of increasing Chinese control over these Tibetan areas after the 2008-Olympics can be judged from the fact that more than 155 Tibetan youths, monks and nuns have taken to the extreme step of self-immolation. Many observers believe that sudden spurt in self-immolations by Tibetans to express their anger against the Chinese rule and their desire to see the Dalai Lama back simply reflects the effectiveness of Chinese security apparatus to put a check on collective expression of public anger. President Xi’s ‘outstanding success’ in controlling the public dissent during the Beijing Winter Olympics-2008 is a testimony to the power of the CCP apparatus over China.