By David Bandurski — As rescue and relief work goes ahead in Sichuan province, one topic of secondary interest in China’s editorial pages has been the fate of the Olympic torch relay. We pointed yesterday to a Caijing editorial earlier this week advising leaders to postpone the torch relay until disaster work had stabilized, then arrange for the torch to go directly from the quake’s epicenter at Wenchuan to Beijing.
In an editorial in Southern Metropolis Daily yesterday, scholar Wu Zuolai (吴祚来) called on leaders to send the Olympic torch directly to Wenchuan, without delay, so that it can “shine on those who need rescue and relief.”
In answer to Wu’s emotive appeal, journalist Ye Zi (叶子), editor of China Elections and Governance, suggests today in Southern Metropolis Daily’s “Responses and Criticisms” section that Wu’s idea is callous and untimely.
The pair of editorials follow, in order of their appearance.

Let the Olympic flame go directly to Wenchuan!
By Wu Zuolai (吴祚来)
May 16, 2008
The Olympic torch does not have symbolic meaning, regardless of where it goes, and people cannot get the proper measure of joy from its arrival because major disaster still grates on our brothers and sisters.
The Olympic torch should go be carried directly to Wenchuan.
Let the Olympic flame shine on those who need rescue and relief. Let the world see their tragedy and their resilience. Let the Olympic flame shine on the rescue workers. Let the world see their courage and goodness. Let the Olympic flame shine on the wreckage of homes and cities. Let all good-willed people wish the best for those living in the midst of disaster.
The Olympic flame should be immediately carried to Wenchuan, traveling with the aid vehicles, moving amongst those who seek their loved ones. Let it give the hope of life to those in darkness. Let it give relief to those who have been rescued. Let it give strength to the rescue teams. It will draw the loving attention of the whole world, and stand as a sublime symbol for the Chinese people.
[We’ve removed several paragraphs of lofty, sentimental language.]
Let the Olympic flame go directly to Wenchuan!
Let the sacred flame go directly to Wenchuan!
Because the torch carries with it universal values. Because the Olympic flame represents warmth and piece. Because the Olympic flame moves always with love, a call for prosperity . . .
Let the Olympic flame go directly to Wenchuan!
We call for the loving hearts of the whole world to go directly to Wenchuan!
Faced with disaster, what need do we have for ‘symbols’?
By Ye Zi (叶子)
May 17, 2008
On May 16, I read Mr. Wu Zuolai’s column in Southern Metropolis Daily, “Let the Olympic flame go directly to Wenchuan!” I was truly astonished. I have one question I would like to ask Mr. Wu: faced with present disaster, when all that matters is human life, what need to we really have for “symbols”?
Since [the quake struck on] May 12, I’m sure a lot of people who like me rarely watch the nightly newscast on CCTV are now glued to the screen. Our feelings at this time are of concern, concern for progress in the relief effort, concern about the weather and other snags. As life hangs in the balance our hearts are clenched. And when the CCTV newscast reported on the Olympic torch relay, I felt awkward. I wasn’t sure what my heart should make of such a grand affair.
I felt just as embarrassed when those people who turned out for the torch relay, after a moment of silence, turned their shiny faces to the world, their beaming faces full of passion and hope. Anyone would agree, I think, that this was cruel.
I understand that the Olympic torch relay cannot be stopped. But I really hope that in these days after May 12 we can refrain from all of this face-painting, and that we can avoid all of this empty formalism in the torch relay. There is even no need to have torchbearers all wearing the same uniforms . . .
Not everyone understands us when we talk about “values,” about the difference between “Chinese characteristics” and “universal [values]”. Not everyone has read [Donne’s] “No man is an island . . . And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls.” . . .
At this time, the world is already focused on Wenchuan. But Wenchuan is not a play stage (秀场). What Wenchuan needs is a wholehearted rescue and relief effort. What it needs is a race with death. What it needs is homes for those who have no homes. I have experienced the pain of the loss of a family member. If, as my loved one’s were fighting against death or had just passed away, you were to talk to me about the meaning of life and the symbol of the pine [representing immortality], that would be exceptionally bad timing.

[Posted by David Bandurski, May 17, 2008, 1:25pm HK]

David Bandurski

CMP Director

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