A protest accusing the Chinese government of numerous human rights violations and calling for a boycott of the 2008 Summer Olympics to be held in Bejing, took place in the free speech zone outside the Student Union on May 5.
The anti-government rally instantly triggered a debate between the protestors and Chinese students at UNLV. University police were dispatched to the rally to ensure the event remained civil. Before long, dozens of Chinese students began chanting and yelling back at the protestors.
Ye Ai, a student who witnessed the rally, said he was disappointed in the protestors’ suggestion that the U.S. and other countries should boycott the Olympics.
The protestors held up posters, which showed Chinese people locked in small cages being tortured. They also handed out pamphlets explaining their cause.
According to the pamphlet, the ruling Chinese Communist Party had “intensified the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners” after pledging to adhere to the Olympic Charter, which called for the CCP to improve its human rights record.
The pamphlet went on to explain how the Falun Gong “adherents” and “other prisoners of conscience” are “vivisected on demand to supply a thriving organ transplant industry.”
Chinese students passing by became noticeably irritated by the protestors. Tongda Che, a Chinese graduate student said, “(The Falun Gong) organization is illegal in China because they are like a cult, in which the leader is like a God, and followers actually kill themselves to become gods themselves.”
A Chinese part-time instructor at UNLV who wished to remain nameless also witnessed the protest and was disappointed by the message.
“These people have not been to China in over 30 years and they have not seen the progress,” the instructor said. “These protestors get all their information from their leader, which is inaccurate. Chinese people do not live as horribly as these protestors are saying. This is all about politics.”
The rally became especially tense when a Chinese student made a forceful attempt to grab a microphone out of the hands of one of the protestors. UNLV police warned the man not to use any force whatsoever. When the student asked the police officer if he could make a sign, the policeman confirmed the student’s right to free speech.
A few minutes later, several Chinese students emerged, holding up signs of their own in support of the Chinese government, and China’s right to host the Olympic Games.
In response to the Human Rights Torch Relay protest, Chinese students planned a pro-China rally, which was scheduled to take place in the same area on May 15 and 16. However, after a devastating earthquake, which measured 7.9 on the Richter scale, rocked Southwest China on May 12, Chinese students decided to instead focus their rally on getting donations for the relief of victims of the earthquake. Chinese students set up a booth outside the Lied Library and collected donations from anyone passing by.
The event was organized by the Chinese Students and Scholars Association. According to CSSA President Schilei “Will” Zhou, the booth collected more than $3,200 in donations over the two-day period.
Chinese government officials are saying that 22,000 people have been killed in the quake and they expect that number to exceed 50,000.
Individuals interested in donating to the relief effort can visit the Red Cross Society of China at http://220.127.116.11/english/donate.htm