Protesters play secret agents

sft-24If ever an argument needed to be made for watching less TV, the groups of Western “Free Tibet” protesters that have snuck in to China are it.

There’s a four-page article running on the Washington Post’s site which explains in detail the mission of a group funded by Students for a Free Tibet (cue Mission Impossible music – or that 24 countdown tone).

I mean, I respect that these folks want to stand up for a cause they feel is very important. I admire that they travelled to an unknown land and risked unknown punishments to try and get their voice heard – but it’s hard to read about their methods and not think: “You guys watch WAY TOO MANY National Security action-dramas.”

Those who were approved deployed to Beijing in teams of four or five, with specific instructions. The teams were to operate independently and with only minimal communication with the outside. Each knew its own mission but was provided with little information about the other teams. That way, if one was captured, it couldn’t tip off authorities to the broader plans.

Had Chinese authorities bothered to check his luggage and that of his companions, they might have gotten a hint of what was to come: a 25-by-15-foot white nylon sheet, a handful of black Sharpie markers, climbing ropes, harnesses and walkie-talkies.

All the while, they carefully followed a set of rules: limit personal e-mail; use pay phones to check in with family and friends; in phone conversations, use vague phrases such as “Hi, I’m fine” and “We’re having a great time.”

When they talked about the protest in their hotel room, they turned on the shower or the TV to try to drown out any listening devices that might have been planted. All notes were ripped into tiny shreds, separated into piles so they could not be reassembled easily, and disposed of in multiple trash cans on the street.

Anyone willing to bet that the guy coordinating things back in the US, surely a veteran of Seattle ’99, was endearingly dubbed “The Handler”?

What irritates me, and in turn disinterests me in their cause, is that the Tibetan protesters (95% of which aren’t Tibetan, nor ever been to Tibet) – much like the TV terrorists they seem bent on stealing methodology from – come off as close-minded fanatics that only have an interest in pushing their view – not in seeking any form of “truth”.

The Tibetan issue, like any issue really, is a multi-sided beast that just isn’t well represented in the sharpie ‘n’ sheet monochrome of a protester’s banner.

Their motivations were as diverse as their backgrounds. Some had been inspired by listening to the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. Others had spent time in India or Nepal and heard stories of Tibetan repression.

Notice how no one’s motivation seems to be “after travelling to Tibet and seeing the squalid conditions and repression that Chinese ‘liberation’ has brought”?

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that they are quite willing to travel half-way across the globe to champion the cause de l’année, but not to visit the object of their protest and see it for themselves. Granted, travel to Tibet in recent months has been sketchy, but for years prior to the riots this past spring it was wide open and happily taking in virtually whoever wanted to go.

[Kelly Osborne, 39, a youth minister from Oklahoma City] said he hoped he could inspire ordinary Chinese to get involved. “I believed that as human beings, the Chinese people, if they knew what was really going on in Tibet, they would be outraged by that as well,” he said.

You tell ‘em Kel.