Monday, August 11, 2008

Greenpeace Activist Deported from China

Hudema's Chinese adventure may instill some respect for Canadian-style "good governance and the rule of law"

For the past year, Mike Hudema has proven to be a royal headache for anyone even remotely associated with the oilsands developments in Fort MacMurray, Alberta.

Participating in a number of well-orchestrated stunts both in Fort MacMurray and across Alberta, Hudema's protest methods have gotten him arrested before -- mostly for trespassing.

But when Hudema and four other activists -- Steve Anderson, Padma-Dolma Fieltz, Paul Baker and Denise Ogonoski -- tried to unveil a banner and a flag in Tiananmen Square, Chinese security officials weren't about to have any of that.

They were promptly arrested, and have been deported back to Canada.

In retrospect, the unprecedented level of security in Beijing for the Olympic games -- more money has reportedly been spent securing the 2008 Olympic Games than any other event in human history -- may have been more than Hudema, who has previously banked on the notoriously lax security of oilsands sites, bargained for.

"The security is beyond anything I've seen before," Hudema told the Edmonton Journal. "There are military officials on every street corner."

Hudema reported that he and his group had seemingly been targeted by undercover officials very shortly after arriving in China. In fact, Chinese police paid the quintet a visit. The apartment they had rented was searched, and they were taken into police custody and questioned for allegedly breaking an unstated Chinese law.

"You're in a room with one to five interrogators who are firing questions at you, yelling at you," Hudema said, describing the experience.

Hudema and company were eventually released, only to be rearrested following their attempt to protest.

Hudema has most assuredly found his ordeal in Beijing far more trying than anything he's encountered in his career protesting against the oilsands. "To just unfold a flag, and not even get it open halfway before you're tackled to the ground," Hudema mused. "A lot of us are emotionally shaken from this."

Not to mention that Hudema attempted to do this in public, as opposed to on private property or at a private function.

There is no question that the security climate in China surrounding these games is unprecedentedly intense. Comparing it to that which surrounds the oilsands is like comparing two entirely different worlds.

While Hudema's been allowed to more or less have free run of the Fort MacMurray oilsands, it's very different when contending with "a very brutal military dictatorship whose tactics have not changed."

The Chinese will to harness the Beijing Olympics as an opportunity to show off to the rest of the world, with as little controversy as possible, has led to some very extreme measures.

While one not need always agree with Hudema or his methods, one still has to respect the passion with which he pursues his cause. Likewise, still has to be concerned with the Orwellian efficiency with which the Chinese state has trailed, corralled and deported a group of Canadian citizens -- especially considering ease with which Chinese intelligence services have gathered information on our citizens.

For Mike Hudema's part, maybe his ordeal has taught him to appreciate the comparatively gentle embrace of an oilsands security guard to the spear tackle of a Chinese police officer.


  1. Mr. Hudema and company through their actions in China once again have shown why sadly the general public view Greenpeace and activism in general as joke. Why would a rationale person attempt to protest in country that everyone with common sense knows is undemocratic, does not respect human rights, and has a history of brutally suppressing any protest and dissent? Mr. Hudema and company are attempting a democratic action (protesting) in an undemocratic country which is not rationale and not smart and therefore they are seen by the general public as joke. Mr. Hudema and company should be grateful that they are as Mr. Andersen says were treated “fairly well” because I’m sure they could have been dealt with more severely.

  2. You're right about that: they absolutely could have been treated more severely.

    Then again, that's what the problem is.

    If anything, I think Hudema and company should actually be applauded for their attempt to perform a democratic act in an undemocratic state. Sometimes, in order to help promote democracy, you have to be willing to get your hands dirty.

    The example of what happened to Hudema and company very well could serve as a reminder to the Chinese populace of precisely how oppressive their state has become -- that is, if the news ever reaches the light of day.

    That, ultimately, is where the democracy battle in China will eventually be won -- not in government, but with the citizens of China. What the Chinese regime drove tanks over in Tiananmen Square can be rebuilt if only we can encourage the Chinese people.

    Of course, that really is the most we can do -- encourage them. That's probably the reason why the Chinese regime probably doesn't want so many blogs and news sites to see the light of day in China -- because it might encourage a democratic movement to take root in grassroots China.

    As for Greenpeace, I don't think you have to like them, but I think you have to respect them. Whether you agree with their message or methods, they're good people fighting for a cause they believe in.

    Personally, I'll always respect that.


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