Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Suzhou: St Patrick's Day

My last day in China: it's an odd feeling. It rained during the night and the trees are dripping and the car park is wet and glossy, the air damp and chill.

The news this morning was the election of the Chinese premier and vice premiers. The news all week - or rather the non news - has been the riots in Tibet. These started out as a rumour someone said in Beijing. 'Have you heard about the riots in Tibet?'

Nothing more.

In Chengdu the only foreign news service was CNN, and it took me a day to realise that when the signal blanked out it was because it was a report from Tibet.

In Shanghai the censor was much more relaxed. And there was the BBC as well, covering the news in much more detail: namely rumours that a hundred have been killed by Chinese police/army. ('CNN is not covering this for fear of losing the Olympics' someone told me. )

In Suzhou there is no foreign news, just CCTV channel 9, which is the English language channel. They mention the Tibetan news, and the report is full of words like 'insurgance, seperatists, Dalai Lama clique'. 'Tibetan seperatists will be crushed' is a phrase that sticks in my memory as I go out to my talk with Brian Keenan. I'm a little hung over from St Patrick's Day the day before - but it is good to celebrate a good English saint, even though the Irish like to pretend he's there's. A great guy, by the way - Brian Keenan - and despite the fact I promised myself an early night I find myself at the bar chatting till midnight.

I was fourteen when he was kidnapped, and nineteen when he was released. 'Who's Brian Keenan?' my wife asks when I tell her - in fact most of the people can't really place the name. But I knew, and I read his book An Evil Cradling when I was in China: it's a great book, that goes beyond the experiences of a man who was a hostage, and says something profound about the world.

This blog was originally written March 18th, but this blog site is banned in China.

No comments: