Olympic Model Protest

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The IHT reports:

“Beijing will permit public protests inside three designated city parks during next month’s Olympic Games, but demonstrators must first obtain permits from the local police and also abide by Chinese laws that usually make it nearly impossible to legally picket over politically charged issues.

The arrangement announced Wednesday marks a break from normal practice in China’s authoritarian political system and seems loosely modeled after protest zones created at previous Games and at many recent international political gatherings that have attracted large numbers of protesters.

Liu Shaowu, director of security for Beijing’s Olympics organizing committee, said Ritan Park, Beijing World Park and Purple Bamboo Park would be designated for protesters during the Games and that the approval process would be regulated by Beijing’s public security bureau.”

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It’s not the control of public protest that is strange here, but one of the designated sites. The World Park is a model village which features 106 of the most famous landmarks from 14 countries and regions around the world.

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On one hand, this might seem a bizarre means of both trivialising and poilicing public protest by placing it in a what is essentially a global theme park. But perhaps there is something more to the idea of protest in a model village.

After all, in places which like to think of themselves as ‘free’ the very same issue of control of public gathering is wrapped up the guise of security concerns. For UK readers, you might not be able to protest outside Downing Street, or in Parliament Square, but imagine a scenario where you could find yourself protesting outside a miniature simulation of these places. Perhaps, a media park delivering perfectly posed imagery for the nightly news – a protestors equivalent of Capricorn 1 – in which the moon landing is faked in an earth bound studio.

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Thus protestors in the World Park might embark on a range of varied protests: against whaling outside the Katzura Imperial Villa, or against the invasion of Iraq outside the White House – allowing the global stage of the Olympics to be used to address a whole range of global issues. Single-issue politics has never been so convenient!

In the same spirit of simulated environments for protest, somebody missed a trick this year by failing to organise a May ’68 convention at Paris, Las Vegas.

Perhaps the operators of the World Park might like to invest in these figures from German model railway supply company, Preiser.

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That the World Park has already embedded alternative narratives is something explored in Zhang Ke Jias 2004 film ‘The World‘ which, according to IMDb is “An exploration on the impact of urbanization and globalization on a traditional culture”.

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The synopsis:

“The World” is a theme park on the outskirts of Beijing, sixteen kilometers from the Chinese capital, designed around scaled representations of the world’s famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower or the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The site is seen here not from the visitors’ point of view but through the eyes of a few of its staff, lonely people, communicating poorly, a bit disillusioned with life, glittering for the tourists but dull and restricted as far as they are concerned. We meet, among others, pretty young dancer Tao and Taisheng, a security guard who is fond of her but not of personal commitment…”

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