Jin Jing, Beijing’s Parody of Martyrdom

jin-jing-in-Paris

If you’re in a wheelchair, stay the hell out of China. There are virtually no facilities for the disabled in China, let alone any traditional ethos of compassion for them. The Great Hall of the People – the seat of government in Beijing – is inaccessible by wheelchair. Contempt for the physically weak, as well as for the politically weak, runs deep and flows long through Chinese history. In China, the disabled are regarded as freaks and expendable weaklings.

Yet here comes Jin Jing in a wheelchair, sent to Paris by China’s propaganda organs to be a Torch-Bearer. She was, alas, jostled by a Tibetan protester who attempted to take the torch from her – mind you, while she was surrounded by heavily armed French Police. Now China’s propaganda agents, both Chinese and Western, are re-presenting her as (in the words of China Daily and other Chinese organs), the “angel in a wheelchair”, a cynically devised parody of martyrdom. The internet is all abuzz about this “public relations” coup for Beijing, “The Martyrdom of Jin Jing”. But how many have asked the simple question:

WHY did Beijing send a disabled Chinese woman to be a torch-bearer in a foreign country (this is contrary to custom; traditionally, all torch-bearers in France ought to have been French), especially when they knew she would probably be subjected to some kind of (I admit, criminal and objectionable) assault?

Using Occam’s Razor of parsimony of logic, it is obvious that Beijing – whose regime neglects and excoriates the disabled – sent Jin Jing to be a torch-bearer in Paris as a provocation for exactly this kind of “public relations” stunt.

Now, Beijing’s hypocrisy in re-presenting a disabled woman as a symbol of Chinese Nationalism is nauseating enough per se. But what is even more objectionable is the Propaganda Department’s exaggeration of what she suffered. Granted, the assault was illegal and objectionable. But she suffered virtually no bodily harm, precisely because she was surrounded and protected by some of the toughest, and heavily armed, Police in all of France.

Take a look at this photo; what stands between her and one of her assailants is a French Policeman bearing a firearm. And then in this photo, her assailant is right next to a French Police van, surrounded by armed, tough as nails French Police.

Granted, the assailant’s deed was a crime. But the legal definition of the crime of “assault” does not include any element of actual physical harm. An “assault and battery” can be an illegal physical contact as gentle as an unwanted kiss. The point is that being assaulted does not make a Martyr – least of all when the putative “martyr” is being protected by some of the toughest armed cops on the planet.

China’s conflation of the Torch with religion – Beijing’s propaganda organs call the torch “sacred”, and in this photo, Jin Jing holds the torch in a posture reminiscent of Christian martyrs holding a Cross while being fed to the lions (Jin Jing’s closed eyes in that photo are an especially brilliant touch of sinister semiotics) – is, simply, profane. It profanes the names and memories of all real martyrs throughout history, and not just Christian martyrs. This corruption of words like “angel” and “sacred” and “martyr”, as applied to Jin Jing, profanes – if nothing else – truthfulness itself. Even an atheist, or at least an atheist who love truthfulness and integrity of language and symbols, must object to this abuse of the semiotics of “martyrdom”, if only for the sake of clarity of language and of mind.

When Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, he was not defended by heavily armed police. And mutatis mutandis, Jin Jing’s “martyrdom” did not involve torture or death, to say the least.

Or take any martyr of your choice, of any religion, or none. Consider the many atheist Communists who were tortured and murdered for their principles by Germany’s Gestapo. Remember the many, and mostly nameless, beautiful Jewesses of the Middle Ages who chose suicide rather than submit to rape by their so-called “Christian” captors. Or – and perhaps with especial regard to Beijing’s current depredations upon Muslims in Xinjiang – remember the Muslim martyr, Hallaj (855-922), a Sufi whose unorthodox way of professing Islam resulted in his martyrdom through having all his arms and legs cut off until he bled to death.

No, Jin Jing is not one of them. What she has been chosen by Beijing’s propagandists to “re-present”, profanes the names of all true martyrs.

And you don’t have to be a Christian to understand that as Jesus Christ was a martyr, this attempt by Beijing’s Central Propaganda Department to posit Jin Jing as a “martyr” is, literally, a symbol of an “Anti-Christ.” And anti-Marxist too, insofar as Marx excoriated all “false consciousness.”

UPDATE: This article’s title has suddenly disappeared from Google, under any and all searches.   Apparently someone out there is displeased with it, and has the resources to have it removed from Google.   More about this mystery, here

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This entry was posted in Beijing Olympics, Ned Kelly's Pub, religious freedom, Wall of Shame and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Jin Jing, Beijing’s Parody of Martyrdom

  1. Adriana says:

    Maybe the proper thing would be to invite Jin Jing to a Paralympics or Special Olympics event, and ask Beijing if they would host these. And ask hard questions as to how the disabled are really treated in Chinese society – and whether they send Jin Jing to face the wrath of the protesters because she was expendable.

    Not many people realize how unique Christianity is in its treatment of the imperfect and the outcast “the least of these”.

    In any case, I think that it is proper that we pray to Blessed Margaret of Castello to bless Jin Jing and the protesters, and to ask that the hearts of the Chinese government be moved by compassion.

  2. robert says:

    Very intelligent dialogue. Did you know, by the way, that Beijing is hosting the Paralympics this year? Adriana, you sound like a real China Hand! 🙂 Did you know the city is undergoing a massive upgrade to accommodate handicapped people? What is your background on China, Adriana? Have you ever been there?

  3. Lisa says:

    Oops. Some formatting problems happened there. Does that make my point less valid? 🙂

    At any rate, in relation to this post:

    “If you’re in a wheelchair, stay the hell out of China. There are virtually no facilities for the disabled in China, let alone any traditional ethos of compassion for them. The Great Hall of the People – the seat of government in Beijing – is inaccessible by wheelchair. Contempt for the physically weak, as well as for the politically weak, runs deep and flows long through Chinese history. In China, the disabled are regarded as freaks and expendable weaklings.”

    I don’t know too much about China, having been there for only a couple of times, so I won’t question too much here. I do, however, challenge the lack of citations and sources for the claim that “the disabled are regarded as freaks and expendable weaklings”. Your only support for it (in this post) is that China lacks “facilities for the disabled in China”, an assertion that I do not agree with. At least for the parts of China that I have been to, public facilities (e.g. airports) do maintain some degree of support for the disabled.

    This point is trivial, however, because this premise has very little to do with the claim that China was selecting Jin because she’s expandable. For one, according to what I can tell from TV ads and newspaper articles, mentions of heroic disabled people and call for compassion for the disabled is far more frequent than what I can see in the western media. Granted, you might say this call precisely demonstrates that ordinary Chinese lack compassion – which is why the Chinese government is encouraging it – but you have to agree that the Chinese government is at least attempting to create the APPEARANCE of compassion FOR ITSELF. It would not make sense for them to, for example, feed a disabled woman to a bunch of angry protesters just because she is expandable, because it obviously contradicts with the image they have been trying to create for so long. On the other hand, it WOULD make sense for them to send Jin in to proclaim their respect for the disabled (via the Olympics corporate sponsors?) and thus empower the population, which seems to be a far more likely reason. I want to alert to you to the position that there is nothing wrong with this rationale in and of itself – after all, that is what any country would justifiably want to do: improvement over its image through political statements. Personally, I can’t fault China for that. Is it moral, however, to expose an individual who has little defense to the risk of possible assaults? Maybe the Chinese government trusted the Paris police enough, maybe because they (deep down) didn’t care too much about the Chinese people, or maybe because the protesters’ fury exceeded the Chinese government’s expectations. Your guess is as good as mine.

  4. aodaliyaren says:

    Adriana,

    I’ll join you in prayer for a peaceful resolution to ethnic problems in Tibet and Xinjiang. And I believe an open dialogue between the Chinese leadership and the Dalai Lama would be a good start.

    I think I’m in a good position to answer your question about how the disabled are treated in Chinese society. A couple of years ago, I had a small accident while I was an exchange scholar in Beijing and became temporarily wheelchair bound. During that time I experienced all kinds of inconvenience. I eventually came to the conclusion that Beijing is not a city designed with disabled people in mind. There were no ramps for wheelchairs anywhere on University campus or in shopping centres, restaurants, tourist spots and government buildings. I had to rely on friends to help me carry my wheelchair everytime I tried to enter a building (or a room), because of those goddamn steps and thresholds, and there were so many of them. My friends and colleagues had been extremely helpful. Without their generous help I would have to abandon the trip. Beijing people in general, however, were not very accommodating. Some of them literally treated me with contempt because of my disability. I had been refused a ride in a cab because the taxi driver couldn’t be bothered to get out of his car to give me a hand with my wheelchair. A young airport steward refused to carry my luggage because he thought I was a nuisance. In his opinion a person in a wheelchair should not be travelling alone.

    That’s why I can understand why Ned Kelly is looking at this Jin Jing fiasco with suspicion, even though I’m also hoping that Beijing people can learn from their experience of preparing for the Olympic Games (and Paralympic Games) and start to treat disabled people with more respect.

  5. C.A. Yeung says:

    Robert,

    Thanks for dropping by. I hope you are not questioning my credential as an informed China critic, in the same way as you’re criticising Adriana.

    I have no doubt that Beijing is working very hard to upgrade facilities for disabled people who are visiting during Olympic time. It is Beijing’s Olympic obligations to do so and I am not expecting them to do any less. But that is beside the point and you know very well this is not what Ned Kelly is talking about.

    Ned and I are voicing objections to the way in which Jin Jing’s story has been used by Chinese media and the Beijing Olympic PR team as a publicity stunt, with no consideration for the safety and dignity of a disabled person. This is consistent with the traditional attitude towards the disadvantaged and the handicapped that Ned and I have experienced in China. Jin Jing was deliberately picked to put a “human face” to a much condemned decision of the IOC to award the Games to Beijing. When the torch relays had gone out of hand, the Jin Jing story was repackaged and distorted in order to shift the blame away from the Torch Relay organisers and their Western PR agencies. This is dishonest and irresponsible.

    I’m hoping that you guys at Danwei are not a part of this publicity stunt.

  6. Ned Kelly says:

    @ Lisa,

    First of all, lose the red-colouring unless you’re saying something important.

    Second, I see you’re writing from a prominent American University. I don’t know whether you’re a student or an academic. But let me clue you into something: “lack of citations” is for academic papers, not for journalism or any other writings based on personal experience. Grow up.

    Third, your self-contradiction in this bit inclines me to guess you’re an undergraduate rather than a professional scholar; you wrote:

    “I don’t know too much about China, having been there for only a couple of times, so I won’t question too much here. I do, however, challenge the lack of citations and sources for the claim that “the disabled are regarded as freaks and expendable weaklings”. Your only support for it (in this post) is that China lacks “facilities for the disabled in China”, an assertion that I do not agree with. At least for the parts of China that I have been to, public facilities (e.g. airports) do maintain some degree of support for the disabled.”

    Incoherent gobbledeegook. If you admit that you have very little experience in China, then you’re not in a position to challenge the personal experiences of those (such as Catherine and I) who have lived there for years. When and if you grow up you’ll find that years of experience are the stuff of “citations”. Furthermore (and haven’t the good faculty at your college taught you any BASIC epistempology?), guess what the ORIGINAL source is, of ALL citations – and I do mean all. Personal experience. This applies to the science lab as well as to history.

    You don’t think “citations” are some kind of natural phenomenon, do you? If you do, then you’re going to be worthless as a reasearcher.

    I’m not going to bother to address the rubbish in your final paragraph. Just because you have free speech (or in this case, we’re allowing you to participate in this forum), doesn’t mean that you warrant being taken seriously, or that you have anything worthwhile to say.

  7. Ned Kelly says:

    And “Lisa”, one more thing. Another logical-turd I’ve found stuck to the bottom of my shoe after wading through your rubbish. You mentioned, “e.g. airports” as an example – the only one – of the Chinese “public facilities” in which you found “some degree of support for the disabled.”

    AIRPORTS? Your personal experience of China includes AIRPORTS?

    I perceive a hack academic (and/or hack journalist) gestating in American academia’s artificial womb.

  8. Ned Kelly says:

    By the way, does anyone out there know if the Western “public relations” agency behind the Torch is the same one responsible for the “Martyrdom of Jin Jing?”

    Does anyone know? Could someone find out?

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