The Minnesota Center for Photography "Three Gorges" exhibit, showcasing the photographs from the Yangtze River dam project closes Sunday, Feb. 10.
The MCP, in conjunction with Minnesota Film Arts, is also presenting a screening of the Three Gorges drama "Still Life (Sanxia Haoren)" Saturday, Feb. 9 at the Oak Street Theater in Mineapolis.
Tiananmen Square will look different, too
By Sharon Schmickle
Friday, Feb. 8, 2008
Since tanks advanced on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, that vast public plaza has endured as an icon for international concerns over human rights in China.
Cameras covering the Olympics in August, though, will relay a far different image of the square. They will capture banks of flowers — some planted in the shape of Olympic rings — coloring the sidelines ... kids flying kites and waving Chinese flags ... people lining up for photos in front of an immense portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong on the great Gate of Heavenly Peace.
The dramatic events of 1989 may never be forgotten. But China's young generation seems to be moving on.
The passion for democratic ideals has given way to a drive to "make money and get ahead economically," said Qian Geng who was a student in Beijing in 1989 and now lives in the Washington, D.C., area but travels frequently to China.
Still, human rights advocates around the world remain wary of the China that is so eager to brighten its image with the sheen of Olympic success.
And as plans fall in place to use the square for the start of the highly symbolic Olympic marathon, human rights groups are gearing up to make their case that China still has far to go to.
New York-based Human Rights Watch is urging the Bush administration to use the Olympics as a stage for stepping up pressure on China.
"The President's and other heads of states' presence at the Games will be portrayed by the Chinese government as providing a broad imprimatur of approval of its policies and practices," the group's leaders said in a recent letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
A critical test will come when 20,000 reporters from around the world show up in Beijing to cover the games. The Chinese government has pledged they will have freedom to report their stories. But Human Rights Watch and other groups say the official statements are contradicted by recent examples of crackdowns on foreign and Chinese journalists.
Meanwhile, the arrest in December of Hu Jia, a Chinese human rights advocate, has fueled worries that Beijing also is cracking down more broadly on dissent as it prepares to host the Games, The New York Times reported. Hu had advocated for years on behalf of AIDS patients, farmers and the environment. The Chinese government last week charged him with subversion.
Another flashpoint in terms of people and the environment is the displacement of more than a million villagers for China's massive effort to meet its energy needs with the Three Gorges Dam project on the Yangtze River. The government says that it has compensated displaced people and that the dam will serve a greater good by producing energy for the future.
In place of individual freedom, the Chinese government stresses social harmony. The theme is everywhere in China — from ads for new residential developments to the justification for the Three Gorges Dam to government proclamations about the need to improve rural education and correct disparities in the distribution of the newly acquired wealth.
Douglas Hartmann, a University of Minnesota sociology professor who has studied social change as it relates to the Olympics, doesn't expect the China emerging from this year's historic games to mimic the West in terms of social norms.
"Their desire and goal is to present an ideological alternative to the Western and U.S. hegemony," he said. "When China talks about the 'humanist Olympics' … they are not talking about individual rights and economic freedom but about social harmony and economic development."
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