Be Patriotic? First Be Cool!

A summary of a meeting with Beijing Police who “advised” student groups to cancel patriotic demonstrations. This post originally appeared in a university online forum Shuimu Community (水木社区 ), posted by someone with online name “weekender,” translated by CDT:

As one of the contacts among the group for anti-Tibet-independence colleges in Beijing for the May Holiday, some members and I had a meeting with the chief strategist for the Haidian District at Beijing Union University this afternoon to discuss details of holding some activities during the holiday. …

Eight of us arrived at the KFC, and we started a hearty discussion. The head said, more people were coming to join the discussion. Right then, two 40-year-old men came up to us and I thought to myself, the chief was admirable in that he even enticed middle-aged people to join our efforts. But they told us that they were from the Beijing Public Security Bureau and wanted to chat with us. …

Everybody became expressionless, and speechless for a while.

The strategist then said with a smile that we were thinking about going to get an approval from the police. …

The two cops sat down. … They said, they knew that we were planning something, and wanted to exchange some views with us. We naively thought that we would get official support from them, and went ahead with our discussion. Then they spoke up, and we realized that we were being dumb. They made a case of anti-Japanese products demonstrations at Zhongguancun a couple of years ago. “Then they had a pretty simple goal, to put up a banner, but unexpectedly many bad things happened, including shop smashing, car burning, and things got out of control. …” So the consequences of our activities would be difficult to foresee, they said. If things happen, it could get out of hand. We eyed one another, without saying a word.

They went on to tell us that it’s good we had a patriotic heart, but we couldn’t compromise the social order and normal traffic. … “So that’s to say you support our activities but are concerned about the consequences?” we asked.

They smiled, and said they didn’t support our plan. … and that patriotism has many forms of expression, “Why do you have to use this method?” they asked.

They said that this kind of assembly will affect the normal social order. We said, Olympic Games will also affect the normal social order, and a road in front of our college has been blocked. “How can you say that? “The [Games] are an activity organized by the government. If there are any consequences, the government will take responsibility. If anything results from your personal activities, who will be held accountable?”

We asked them what the procedure is for getting permission to rally. They said, you need to send in applications, there’s records, and information about the organizer(s), a whole procedure. “Your activity cannot be part of school activities.”

All of a sudden, our head asked them for their IDs. A man took out his ID from his pocket with a smile. The head looked at it and smiled, meaning that it’s real.

Then we started talking again. But no matter what we said, they wouldn’t allow us to organize such activities. We tried to get around it but couldn’t do so… We said, we didn’t want to affect the normal business of Carrefour, and we didn’t target Carrefour or France, we only wanted to let everybody who is against Olympics know the truth. … But our words seemed pale.

The cops said, 205 countries are expected to come. If anything happens, they can use it as an excuses to boycott the Games. … We only hope to have a good game, and nothing happens before it. …

When we talked about wearing anti-Tibet-independence clothes, they also said no. I asked if we were allowed to walk around with those clothes in school? They said our teachers would talk to us about it. … Someone will control what what we wear, a girl asked. It’s ok what you wear, the cops said, but the problem is you will affect the people around you, and can you be responsible for that? There’s nothing really controversial about what we wear, we just want to support the Olympic Games and oppose splittism, we pleaded. … They smiled, you’ve got to have some sort of motive for wearing this kind of clothing, and it’s different from the clothes you normally wear. … We all smiled, and didn’t say anything. …

We were curious how they found out about us? They said, there was publicity about you. … “Then you know what we’ve been chatting about online?” we asked. They said that if we had some special topics in our conversations, they were supposed to know, like nailing terrorists… Of course, they said with a smile, they won’t violate our privacy. A friend of ours said, yeah, now the technology is so advanced, it packet sniffing will reveal everything . … They smiled and didn’t respond.

We had a feeling that the original plan to distribute clothing Tsinghua University was canceled because of their intervention.