GRL's James Powderly detained in Beijing for planning pro-Tibet "L.A.S.E.R. Stencil" art protest

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103 Responses to “GRL's James Powderly detained in Beijing for planning pro-Tibet "L.A.S.E.R. Stencil" art protest”

  1. Ugly Canuck says:

    Points for trying…heart’s in the right place. Always liked laser art….in the context of the times his prevention is un-surprising though.

  2. Jake0748 says:

    Green laser light isn’t necessarily harmless.

  3. AndreasDahl says:

    Jesus Christ. 400 mW green lasers?

    I don’t know about China, but here in Sweden, the legal limit in public areas is 5 (!) mW.

    A friend had a 125 mW, and that burned shit. Plastic, rubber, skin etc. Easily lit a match.

    nd nw sm hg dchbg gs t frgn cntry nd strts pntng bnch f llgl lsrs (tht r xtrmly pwfll nd cld cs tn f dmg) rnd nd gts hs ss rrstd. Wht, r w spps t fl sd bt tht?

    N! Gd fckng rddns sy. ‘m hppy h gt rrstd.

  4. mgfarrelly says:

    “Yeah, how dare he speak up. Should have stayed quiet, kept his head down, not talked out of turn. He’s going to get what’s coming to him, troublemaker. Bad idea. Don’t take risks. Just go back to sleep.”

    That’s coward talk.

    He’s a smart enough guy to know the risks, not like China’s rather dim view of Tibet protests is some great secret. He knew those risks and still tried to make art in the face of repression. That takes more guts than I have, I hope he is safe and returned to his loved ones quickly.

  5. mujadaddy says:

    Of course they do. But China is not the place to bring it up (the UN is), unless you’re willing to deal with the consequences — including Chinese jail and probably Chinese re-education fun camp and possibly Chinese execution. See, the fact that *anyone* is surprised even remotely about Mr. Powderly’s detention is evidence that at least these people didn’t consider it civil disobedience.

    All I’m saying is that there is a difference between actual civil disobedience (setting yourself on fire in the public square) and well-off-enough-to-travel-to-China techies putting up a laser light show, no matter the altruistic motives.

  6. Jeff says:

    Free Tibet by all means (except violent means). After studying Tibetan Buddhism, and reading the accounts of several prominent cultural anthropologists, I’m not so sure living under the “guidance” of the Tibetan monks has been such a great thing for the Tibetans. They have been held back by a theocracy. We may dislike thug empires, but China is determined to move into the future as a unified culture. Resistance is futile.

  7. pork musket says:

    @6 – So you say we’re all talking like cowards, but also that he has more guts than you. Welcome to the coward table, bud.

  8. arkizzle says:

    #56

    weak.

  9. lizvlx says:

    very interesting to read these comments.
    how naive to think that us artists will willingly just go to chinese prisons for the sake of publicity for one’s own career.
    hihi, that’s real funny.

    @reactionists: sure, that damn bugger, why the hell was he in china in the first place? he better get a real job and earn some decent money like all the rest of use have to; because i could do that too it is just that i got better stuff to do etc etc etc….i love it how people write stuff that is extremely radical thinking that they are being mainstream….:)

    bestz
    lizvlx

  10. 5000! says:

    Americans really should respect laws when traveling to foreign countries.

    As far as we know, Powderly hasn’t yet broken any laws. He was preparing for his project, not performing it.

  11. mgfarrelly says:

    Welcome to the coward table, bud.

    First off, you’re not a coward. I don’t know you or what you do and I don’t toss around grade-school names. See that handle of mine, that’s my name, I stand by my words and I choose them carefully.

    I said that’s coward talk, and it is indeed. Even the bravest person can get caught up in it. Imprisonment? Loss of rights? Torture? Scary stuff. I’d rather protest causes I believe in in a far less risky and dangerous way. That’s my choice, but I’m not going to shame someone for making a different one.

    The man was going to shine a light on a building. For this he’s “detained”? That’s the crazy part of this story.

  12. Jeff says:

    America is guilty of cultural genocide. US automotive towns are withering away while Americans buy cars made by outsiders. We kill an entire part of our culture because we can. Now that’s freedom for you.

    Tibet will be totally transformed by the collective, just like we all will. Don’t fight the big C, love it, welcome it, invite it in. You’ll be happier then, I promise.

  13. mujadaddy says:

    AGF: Wiki says: “Civil disobedience is the active refusal to obey certain laws, demands and commands of a government, or of an occupying power, without resorting to physical violence. It is one of the primary tactics of nonviolent resistance. In its most nonviolent form (known as ahimsa or satyagraha) it could be said that it is compassion in the form of respectful disagreement.”

    But when you don’t live somewhere, it muddies the message… these protests can be dismissed as foreign agitators.

    What about when you live somewhere but you are so disenfranchised that you are not even considered a citizen? Or you have been taken somewhere? Think african slaves in america.

    Totally different. That situation would be analogous to Tibetans protesting in China.

    You are not required to be a citizen of a country to be held accountable under their law – so reciprocally – you can also civilly disobey without being a citizen.

    Maybe in the European Union, but that’s not a given reciprocity, as Mr. Powderly is discovering currently.

    I think you need to stop being so wrapped up in borders and laws.

    Don’t presume that I care about them; presume that I’m aware of them. It would be nice if China wasn’t under a dictatorship of the “People.” Snc t’s nt, i m pnn whngng bt Tbt s mssng th frst fr th trs. I want ALL Chinese people to be free.

  14. James David says:

    @#25, #26, #33 – Absolutely right!

    I work on and read about art and activism all day long, and James/GRL’s work is high on my respect list. I wholeheartedly support his protest and have already started spreading the word about his detainment. Here’s hoping for his safe return!

  15. JohnC says:

    So let me get this straight: this guy is wandering around beijing at night pointing a gun-like object at buildings during a time of ultra high security and there are *any* people in the world that have even an ounce of sympathy for him?

    The mind boggles.

  16. mgfarrelly says:

    On NPR they’ve run series on China for months now. Over and over again you hear ordinary Chinese citizens saying things like “If you’re not doing anything wrong, you won’t get in trouble.” and “We don’t want any trouble”. It’s the mind set of a police state. Only troublemakers raise their voices and they get what they deserve. Harmony over liberty.

    Frankly, I don’t know a great deal about the Tibet issue, not something I’ve read much on. But hearing that kind of talk, seeing people imprisoned simply for expressing their opinion, I hate that here in the US and anywhere around the world.

    The right to speak freely is a human right. Sometimes those words aren’t spoken politely or in a venue you’d choose. The solution to speech you don’t like is not censorship or caution, it’s more speech.

  17. Foolster41 says:

    Tibet is just one aspect of the Chinese goverments abuses. there are pleanty of other abuses, including torturing(!) of Christians and those belonging to other religions.

    I agree with #25 and I’m pretty baffled by the “should have known better” comments that seems to indicate he deserved it or something. That’s pretty damn cold.

  18. BDewhirst says:

    No, you are required to provide reputable-source citations for your claims. Get it straight.

    I’m as obliged to do so as my interlocutors, who haven’t as near as I can tell. I haven’t explored the rather lengthly list of past threads, however, and it is possible that it is there.

    My general point, that the pro-Tibet commenters seem to believe their point is self-evidently true and that it is not possible to hold an alternate opinion and isn’t worth the effort of explaining it to them because anyone who disagrees must be doing so out of malice remains a valid one.

    (This’ll be my last post on this topic until I’ve had a chance to explore past discussion apart from replying to direct responses/challenges/etc.)

  19. mujadaddy says:

    #63 AGF: I still think you should rethink the civil disobedience thing though.

    “Civil” refers to the citizens disobeying, like tax or general strikes. Going to a foreign country to protest *their* policies doesn’t qualify, I’m afraid.

    #72 posted by MaximusNYC: If “the only standard that matters” is the local government’s, then you do embrace their definition of protest as terrorism. Don’t act all offended that we read you correctly.

    It’s called “the real world.” We welcome you to it any time you’re ready. Principles != reality. Chinese jail > ‘noble cause.’

    It’s cute how you’re an absolutist when it suits you (your definition of civil disobedience in #41 is pretty clear-cut), and a relativist when it doesn’t.

    What can I say? I’m a Gemini. Oh, you’re cute too…I guess. …Actually, I’m always an absolute relativist.

  20. street says:

    Powderly…11th commandment brother.

  21. mgfarrelly says:

    gun-like object at buildings during a time of ultra high security

    Oh my god.

    What’s next “Cameras can easily be mistaken for guns in low light.”.

    If you look at the video on the GRL site
    http://graffitiresearchlab.com/?page_id=76#video

    the stylus used looks more like a pen than a gun.

    You’re telling me that cops in Beijing on “ultra-high security uber top secret alert” can’t tell a pen from a gun. Cop FAIL.

  22. Bodhipaksa says:

    @56 Are Tibetans treated differently? Yes. Many Tibetan women have been forcibly sterilized — “Genocide lite” if you will. Plus there are the 1.2 million Tibetans who have been murdered or starved to death.

    But if I understand your point correctly, you’re saying that globalization is the same as genocide, and that globalization is the only thing worth taking issue with, and that what’s going on in Tibet is globalization, but it’s not genocide, and it’s not a real issue.

    Are you trying to be this incoherent, or does it come naturally?

  23. Foolster41 says:

    (And before the pro-PRC people come on here (We’ve had them before when Tibet comes up here): yes, I’m an American and our current regeme in the last 8 years did use torture, I’m not at all happy about that. However, China’s had the same one party opressive system since the cold war began.)

    I’m not anti-china. I’m pro-democracy and freedom.

  24. Zergonapal says:

    Speaking out is nice and all, but wheres the sense in doing it in the country with the notoriously shoddy human rights record?
    His heart might be in the right place, but its obvious his head had achieved high orbit.

  25. mujadaddy says:

    @MaximusNYC ~#25
    It’s called civil disobedience — you may have heard of it.

    No. Civil disobedience is when you disobey YOUR government to call attention to ITS policies, not when you go to a foreign country and call attention to its injustice and fascism. (Surprise! Injustice & Fascism!) This behavior can be, and is, defined as international terrorism, like it or not.

    Don’t get me wrong–I’m wayyyy more paranoid about the Chinese than you are, but I’m not going to China to tell them about it. In the USA it’s been risky since 9/11 to do this kind of thing as an American. You have to have a screw loose to have done this.

    I’m sure he was a nice guy. Start your eulogies.

  26. AGF says:

    Jupiter12, First of all, laws should be followed in your own country or someone else’s only when they are good or your own safety out weighs the damage of following a bad law. Secondly, it’s also important to break some good laws when you are trying to protest something. It’s called civil disobedience. This is really important. Please think about it. You personally need to think about what is right and wrong.
    This is not a question of american ignorance. This is a question of protest and civil disobedience. James is not some kid being silly, he is an artist and an activist.
    I hope James is ok. I admire his courage. I also don’t find his statement “James wonders why organizations like the MoMA, Parsons, Eyebeam, Ars Electronica and many other arts and cultural institutions around the world who claim to support free speech and expression would participate in a show like this.” to be passive aggressive at all. Sometime when the right thing to do is that clear to you – you really can’t understand how it isn’t that clear to everyone else. I would guess that James, given that he has gone to a chinese prison over this, would not be able to just shut up about his politics and put his art in the govn’t approved show. I bet he wouldn’t be able to sleep or eat if he did. Some things mean that much to people.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I can say from personal experience that James is indeed a really smart guy….as well as a total idiot.

    He knew, full well, what he was doing and why he was doing it. So did his partner Evan Roth…and why do you think he wasn’t there? James had a plan…he knew there would be one of two outcomes….jail or prevail. And a little thing known as “internet famous” was the side effect he was hoping for with either outcome (http://internetfamo.us/class/about).

  28. glamajamma says:

    Regardless of my opinion on if Tibet should be freed or not, does anyone actually believe China will pull out of Tibet ever, when most Chinese consider Tibet presently and historically part of China?

    S wht ds ths cs d fr th Tbtns? nct vlnt rts n Tbt?
    ncrg Chns crckdwns n th Tbtns. Chn s NVR lvng Tbt. Thr s n cntry wth th blty r th dsr t xrt prssr n Chn t pll t f Tbt. Thr s bsltly n rd t Tbtn lbrtn. Th Tbtns wll nvr hv th mltry pwr t psh Chn t. N cntry wll VR prctc mltry frc n th bhlf f Tbtns. N cntry wll VR hv th blty r th dsr t xrt cnmc prssr n Chn. Chn dsn’t gv fck wht y thnk, bcs th Chns ppl thnk Tbt s hstrclly prt f Chn, nd tht s lt f fckng ppl. f y tk vry prsn wh hd “fr tbt” stckr nd ddd thm ll p thy wld nt vn cm cls t th nmbr f Chns tht thnk Tbt s prt f Chn.

    As far as the Chinese are concerned the Tibetans have it as tough as any other Chinese living in marginalized rural communities in China, problems which include poor health care, failing subsistence living, low employment, etc etc.

  29. BDewhirst says:

    What other world dictators would students like restored at the behest of the CIA?

    By all means, there should be free speech… but a little perspective would be nice as well.

  30. Rider says:

    This had more to do with self promotion then freeing Tibet. Everyone reading this story is already knew about the Tibet issue. The only thing this accomplished was getting his name splattered all over the internet.

  31. jonathanpeterson says:

    I can’t think that getting caught is too unexpected. The amazing part that is unremarked on for me is this:
    “Students for a Free Tibet has staged six protests in Beijing over the last two weeks, placing the issue of Tibet’s occupation front and centre”

    Did anyone know that? 16 brazillion hours of coverage a day and I’ve not seen a single photo or single mention of those protests. Don’t want political protests to keep us from selling advertising, do we.

  32. Takuan says:

    Tibet will be free.

  33. Eduardo Padoan says:

    Civil desobidience is civil desobedience anywhere, in your country or not. As said in another thread, Human Rights are universal. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t your country, or isn’t your laws. May not be the laws that I’m subject, but this are the laws that other humans are subject, and they are (this laws) unnaceptable. Activism know no boundaries.

  34. Antinous says:

    How poignant that the concern trolls are so worried about the poor Tibetan people’s rights that they don’t want them to have any autonomy, lest the evil monks enslave them and eat their babies. Shills.

  35. Takuan says:

    quite a bit of trolling, some astroturfing, a bit of the usual moronic hate comments…. I imagine a little thread maintenance is due here soon.

    I see little point in addressing the more deliberately ignorant or malevolent comments, anyone have some new interpretation or interesting avenue to pursue here? A legitimate question perhaps?

  36. pauldrye says:

    James wonders why organizations like the MoMA, Parsons, Eyebeam, Ars Electronica and many other arts and cultural institutions around the world who claim to support free speech and expression would participate in a show like this.

    If James actually wonders this, James is not very bright. I mean, I can understand not agreeing with the theory that engagement is a route to more freedom, it doesn’t take a whole lot of brainpower to understand it — just empathy.

    Either that, or James is being passive-aggressive.

  37. mujadaddy says:

    Ah, your moon-eyed optimism always amuses me, Tak.

  38. Jeff says:

    Rider, please don’t question core group values. We not only expect artists to self-promote here in the BoingBoinganism, but we promote it. You see, if the art can make just one more person aware of the Tibet issue, then the artist has done something good and important and maybe cool and illegal all at the same time. We of the collective are allowed to question the rules of other collectives. That’s what collectives do, dude. Yo, bitches, our hivemind is better than yours, because we have steampunk! And stuff.

  39. natdefreitas says:

    They didn’t completely stop him… GRL-inspired “Free Tibet” LED Throwie banner just “dropped” before midnight Beijing time:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/sfthq/sets/72157606833809483/

  40. AGF says:

    Mujadaddy. The reciprocity I speak of is not legal. Civil disobedience – by definition – is not legal. I’m talking ethically. The EU has nothing to do with it.
    Re the bit about foreign agitators – I wrote 2 more paragraphs. Read the whole thing and then talk to me.

  41. avraamov says:

    i’m sort of struggling with this. large scale laser graffiti activism – great. but go onto his site and he’s projecting a huge phallus onto the tate modern chimney (or is that a mock-up?). somehow gail porter’s r’s on big ben seems just as subversive.
    anyway – this is probably the safest time for him to be go-a-lasering in beijing. there’s a bit of attention focussed on the place for some reason, so people are tending to notice things like this. yes i know that’s the point…

  42. avraamov says:

    #65 posted by arkizzle:

    ‘weak.’

    heh. after a quick read thru your previous comments, i’ll take that as a compliment.

  43. BDewhirst says:

    I’d like to point out that some of those who suggest there is “obvious trolling” or “malevolent ignorant comments” present is essentially denying there can be an opposite side in the discussion. I honestly believe that a) China has a legitimate claim to Tibet, b) that claims of forced sterilization and 1.2 million dead are exaggerated c) that the Tibet movement is an artifact of its utility to the CIA d) that, at the time of the invasion, Tibet had significant social issues which the Free Tibet movement would like to ignore and e) the principles whereby Tibet would be freed would justify returning the land on which many American Free Tibetan advocates now live to Native Americans, and thus they have a hypocritical and incoherent position.

    Amnesty International would seem to agree that a -more moderate- position than that of the Free Tibet movement is valid.

    I am -not- saying that neither China or Tibet should have representative forms of government, or that there is absolutely no argument for Tibetan autonomy, or that there is no equitable and legal means whereby Tibet could become an independent country… but if you believe my position arises from ignorance, you’re obliged to present evidence to that effect.

  44. MaximusNYC says:

    @40: You seriously believe that it’s only civil disobedience if it’s directed at one’s own government — otherwise it’s terrorism? Wow.

    I guess Gandhi and all others who have practiced it against occupying foreign powers were actually terrorists.

  45. Jeff says:

    Takuan, they are as free as any of use to make a limited number of choices. Remember, total freedom = chaos. And the level of chaos we can deal with is limited. Systems of Order (look at how order is helped in the BoingBoinganism)do not always allow for every kind of behavior. We all have our ideals, and China may not share ours. And I don’t like a lot of things about America and China and Britian and France and Russia…

  46. Takuan says:

    Jeff, Jeff, Jeff…. the “Truth”? Which one would you like?

  47. Jack says:

    Okay, so does anyone know about what happened to the local Chinese folks who helped him out? I’m really not too worried about a westerner being punished too harshly, but I can easily see anyone who helped him who were local to China really getting grief beyond grief for this.

  48. natdefreitas says:

    A word from Students for a Free Tibet: Some might ask what to do to support James right now… here’s my opinion – spread the word, honestly, and go and build GRL stuff… that’s his goal, for everyone to learn and build and make and express their own messages. Download the GRL movie (its free via bittorrent) and screen it – you’ll get the idea.

    If they want to post messages up support on SFT’s page: http://freetibet2008.org/globalactions/jamespowderly/
    we will make sure they get to his family.

    If there is still have no word in the next day, we’ll step things up… but for now, we just have to wait and see.

    BTW, since August 6th, 40 people have been detained and deported for similar acts of protests for Tibet in Beijing at Tiananmen Square, the Bird’s Nest, and elsewhere… (you may not have heard about them on NBC, but they’re all documented at ft08.org)..they are all back home now, safe and sound.

    We hope James will be soon, as well.

  49. MaximusNYC says:

    Mujadaddy @62:

    Whaaaaat are you talking about? I never said that *I* considered it terrorism — but now I have two people who think that’s what I said. I said that by the only standard that matters, the interpretation of law enforcement in the relevant jurisdiction, it is terrorism to bring up Tibet as anything other than part of China.

    If “the only standard that matters” is the local government’s, then you do embrace their definition of protest as terrorism. Don’t act all offended that we read you correctly.

    It’s cute how you’re an absolutist when it suits you (your definition of civil disobedience in #41 is pretty clear-cut), and a relativist when it doesn’t.

  50. Takuan says:

    I see no need to reply to “arguments” that are tedious repetition of Beijing propaganda. Any reasonable and objective person wishing to make a study of the history and circumstances of Tibet is well aware of this. Your need of education in this regard is still at a level that behooves you to be the one to remedy it.

    I do also note is a standard tactic of oppressive regimes to tirelessly wield the Big Lie as a means to exhaust the opposition.

  51. mujadaddy says:

    I guess Gandhi and all others who have practiced it against occupying foreign powers were actually terrorists.

    According to the occupying foreign powers? Yes.

    Learn2read, by the way.

  52. glamajamma says:

    Tibet is such a candy coated easy to digest bullshit cause. It is world politics lite for people that want to feel good about themselves. I don’t give TWO SHITS about Tibet.
    Tibetans don’t want democracy or individuality or even “human rights.” They want the same government they have right now but cloaked in their own theocracy. The Tibet “struggle” is one big bullshit spin factory, and all the “progressives,” like this asshole grand stand for their own ego trip.
    So many real issues out there, that would be way more challenging to solve.

  53. BDewhirst says:

    Democracy proponents… exactly how is restoring a religious dictatorship promoting democracy?

    How is having two political parties which agree on many aspects of foreign policy, economic policy, etc. significantly better than a one party state from first principles?

    I mean, if I give you a choice between Kang and Kodos… it is a false choice.

    The Chinese people happen to support their government, and are unlikely to welcome some outsider coming in and trying to teach them how “primitive” they are.

  54. mgfarrelly says:

    Don’t want political protests to keep us from selling advertising, do we.

    I’m terribly cynical about the Olympics. Nationalism makes my skin crawl and the relentless “medal counts” and jingoistic narratives (“He conquered Leukemia, and diabetes and cancer and Alzheimer’s and still he rides his unicycle…for AMERICA”) that the tv needs to invent. On the other hand, I have nothing but admiration for the athletes, competing for the love of sport. Don’t hate the player, hate the IOC?

    The olympics are an immense piece of political theater, from the selection of the city, to the ceremonies to the way it’s all conveyed in the media. Thinking that a hot button issue like Tibet is going to just slide off the stage is just not clear thinking.

  55. glamajamma says:

    Xeni has responded with her own BoingBoing TV response. She pointed out a government crackdown but did not mention why China may have cracked down on Tibetans. I had just posted to a news report from CNN, not some crack news agency, about riots and the dangers they posed to the civilian population in Lhasa.
    http://edition.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/03/14/tibet.unrest/
    My comment on that thread was deleted and posts were stopped on the BoingBoingTV thread. I am a knee jerk liberal but I would like to point out being fair means being fair to all sides and cultural understanding is not something that should be restricted to the peasant farmer.

  56. glamajamma says:

    I apologize my post has returned and comments have been reopened

  57. AGF says:

    @ 40 Mujadaddy: FAIL. perhaps you could call me on cultural colonialism or something. we could have an interesting debate on that. but terrorism? giggle. next thing you know you’ll be calling me a commie. better dead than red right? . . .

  58. Bodhipaksa says:

    @50 The Dalai Lama and the Tibet government in exile want democracy for Tibet, not a “religious dictatorship.”

    As for the Chinese people supporting their government — it’s kind of hard to say how much they support it, isn’t it, when opposing it gets them tortured and put into labor camps.

  59. Jack says:

    #30 POSTED BY EDUARDO PADOAN:

    Educate us, then. What else should we be doing to raise public awareness about the crimes commited by the PRC?

    The last time I checked, the Chinese are the very last group of people who need to be educated on how their government behaves. I don’t think an action like this would have made much of a difference in the big picture. They all know what the deal is but they are all powerless to do anything. A street-art action like this means nothing.

    But I think a better tactic might have been to (1) just do it without making a pre-announcement of it. But then again that might have resulted in him being punished even further. But what about (2) doing the same thing, but at PRC buildings outside of China. There’s the U.N. and an embassy here in NYC. If the ultimate goal would have been media attention, I think that would be more successful.

    Better yet, get someone who is going to win a gold, bronze or silver medal and use their exposure to send the same message.

    Remember when Kanye West shouted “George Bush doesn’t care about black people…” Now that was heroic and made an impact.

  60. Giovanni says:

    He probably publicized it before hand so that if he got arrested (highly likely) at least people would know about it and that’s a safeguard at against being shanghai’d! (Im terrible I know)

    The real problem is that not only does china not care what we think about Tibet, most chinese don’t care. It’s like Taiwan. They govern themselves and have a government separate from china but if you ask any Chinese person they will say Taiwan is apart of China.

    There don’t seem to be enough Chinese who care to make a difference. Or maybe they do care and are silenced…

  61. Bodhipaksa says:

    @49 Good attempt at trolling, Glamajamma. Yes, genocide, torture, cultural colonization — that sounds just like “world politics lite” and not at all “real issues.”

  62. WA says:

    As others here have already noted, a 400 mW laser is not weak, and has the potential to be quite dangerous; most normal laser pointers are less than 5 mW, and can still cause significant eye damage. Using a device of this sort in an unplanned, covert manner is most likely very unsafe for bystanders and targets, and is probably illegal in the US. While there are few details on the construction of the device, it could, for example, become an extreme hazard if the stencil part were to fail, leaving only the beam. As it is being directed at far-away buildings, very small movements could cause the beam to go through windows, potentially causing eye damage for those inside.

    In short, with the information available, using this device seems to me to be quite irresponsible. That said, the problem here is not that China detained him for planning to use an unsafe device, but that China detained him for the content he planned to present.

  63. Jupiter12 says:

    Americans really should respect laws when traveling to foreign countries. This reminds me of Michael Faye, the kid who was caned in Singapore for tagging cars with graffiti. People here were scrambling to prevent the caning, even Bill Clinton intervened. I thought, “Why should this kid get special treatment? He should have known better.”

    Powderly’s act may not have caused any physical damage, but he should have been smart enough to know that China wouldn’t allow any shenanigans during the Olympics. This act pretty much guarantees his nomination to all sorts of international “do not allow” lists.

  64. kleer001 says:

    I too cringe at jingoism. It’s the whole notion of the “weak slave-like state” that we’re born into depending on where our mom birthed us to which I strongly disagree.
    I too have done some dumb things and I too agree with the “Large Bear, short stick.” comment. That said I wish him the best though I predict some pretty serious consequences for the poor young man.

  65. Foolster41 says:

    The U.N.? Fat chance with the U.N. China’s “People’s Republic” has been blocking the legitimate former government of China (I.E. the Republic of China exiled in Taiwan) out of the U.N, and forcing it to be seen as illegitimate even as a separate country by most NGOs like the world Health organization ever since the end of the china’s civil war during the global cold war. They are a veto power in the security counsel. the only more ridiculous thing one can do than hosting a celebration of world unity in China is give them a veto power on a world security council. Other powers (including the US) are too afraid of China to make a move. Honestly, I don’t have a lot of faith in the UN. Not a bad concept I admit.

    I just read the the Wikipedia article today and was shocked, because I had no idea about the history. Everyone should read it for themselves. While RoC holds open multi-party elections the “one real” china is a oppression one party state.

  66. Jack says:

    @#17 POSTED BY MGFARRELLY:

    The olympics are an immense piece of political theater, from the selection of the city, to the ceremonies to the way it’s all conveyed in the media. Thinking that a hot button issue like Tibet is going to just slide off the stage is just not clear thinking.

    The Olympics are what you make of them. I know far more people who watch the games for individual performance devoid of nationalism than otherwise. Of course there’s always people who are nationalistic, but I find ignoring them or dismissing them is a lot easier in the case of the Olympics when compared to local sports rivalries.

    Also, are there any interesting and *gasp* positive things about the events that BoingBoing could post on? Or should we just expect that any post on the Olmypics on BoingBoing is just going to be negative?

  67. avraamov says:

    after having skimmed the wiki on tibet’s history, i can’t see how anyone can say that there’s a clear cut claim to the place. ethnicity is not a claim that stands up to much scritiny (de-population of the U.S and canada anyone? ‘free tibet’ is simplistic. ‘stop treating tibetans like animals’ seems more like it.
    every han chinese to a man think they’re doing the tibetans a favour. china is coming everybody – whether we like it or not. tibet will not be free on anybody’s terms but the chinese ones. lets engage intelligently.

  68. mujadaddy says:

    I’ve got a great idea! I’m going to go to China & fuck with them! Wooooo, Anarchy!!!!

    …I’m betting this guy slips in the shower & falls on something sharp about 45 times…

  69. Ryan Waddell says:

    “Hey China! I’m coming to your country to stir up shit! Watchoo gonna do? Nyah nyah!”

    “Hey… wtf? Why am I in jail now? Awwww”

    Dude had to know he was going to get arrested. He still did it any way. I’m not sure if he’s brave or stupid, but either way I can’t really say I respect his decision. Disappearing into a Chinese jail for 20 years isn’t exactly the best way to further your cause, ya know? Hope he makes it out with all his organs intact.

    As for the protests – they’ve made the news here in Toronto fairly prominently… Don’t recall seeing anything on any American newscasts though.

  70. glamajamma says:

    @54
    Does China treat Tibetan upstarts any different then any other upstart Chinese people? Where is the genocide? China tortures Tibetans, but China tortures all Chinese people that disagree with them. That isn’t a Tibetan problem it is a Chinese problem. China isn’t trying to kill out the Tibetans, it is breeding them out. Welcome to globalization! The Dhali Llama is even calling it “cultural genocide.” I don’t care about “cultural genocide” when REAL genocide is happening all over the world. “Cultural Genocide” = Globalization. Globalization is happening ALL OVER THE WORLD, not just in Tibet, why isn’t the Dhali Llama fighting globalization all over? It doesn’t fit his agenda. The only reason he is fighting “cultural genocide” is because that old culture empowers him.

    So no it is not a “real issue.”

  71. martha_macarthur says:

    The Central Tibetan Administration changed it’s form of government way too long ago for anyone to be going on about theocracies. The idea the Tibetans are fighting for their former form of government is old PRC propaganda that cannot be taken seriously.

    Free James! Free Tibet!
    Free Oppressed Peoples Everywhere!

  72. mujadaddy says:

    @AGF:

    I think as long as we are…going somewhere and saying “hey! stop violating basic human rights that we all agreed on.” We are safe.

    Yet that is not what happened, is it?

    My EU comment was more about a community of nations with common legal frameworks than any existing specific legal reciprocity.

    China is a different country than the ones wherein the Greco-Roman democratic theory took root and flourished, UN membership notwithstanding…

    Civil disobedience MUST necessarily contain the element of disobedience, not agitation for the sake of agitation. When I go to, I don’t know, France and chain myself to a security gate and object to their reliance on nuclear power, my lack of standing as a citizen degrades my actions down to mere protest, not civil disobedience. If I do the same as a French citizen, it is an act of civil disobedience.

    Consider the Rastafarian who chooses to go to Dubai to be “civilly disobedient” to the plight of the poor oppressed Dubaians who can’t smoke a joint. This is a prime example of what I’m talking about — the Rasta has traveled outside his own social/civil sphere and stepped on toes.

    How many people, percentage-wise, in Beijing care about autonomy for Tibet?

  73. aceofspades says:

    HAH and they said green lasers are only for mischief. I personally own a “non-true” 100 mw laser than averages around 50-70 mw and it can go into the horizon. Heck I can point it at a water tower in the distance and it will still be super bright.

    I can’t fathom the power of a 400 mw. Hey who wants to guess he got it (or pot modded it) from a laser made in china. You can buy a chinese 200 mw *true* laser for around 120 hundred dollars. All hes doing is putting a little head on the laser. I mean you can easily do that.

    BTW example: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.1997

    Ok back to the story at hand. The Chinese Government are one of the most ruthless and suppressing governments in the world and they are right up there with Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

    But they really should have done it somewhere (talking about the banner) where they would have been able to do for longer and they would have made quite a stir after they were removed. They could have easily done it on the lawn of the US Embassy. They could have been there for at least a significant amount of time and yea the US Government would have removed them pretty quickly but than everyone would be angry at the US government and they wouldn’t have been arrested. I mean the government might have sent them back to the US to avoid a conflict with the Chinese but they certainly wouldn’t be in a Chinese prison like they are now!

    And the laser would be prefect for doing on the lawn of an embassy and would have gotten GREAT EXPOSURE. After all pretty much everyone could have seen it and it would have caused a huge event and the Chinese would have been furious.

    Now the guy is just sitting in a Chinese cell with his thumb up his a**.

    I mean I’m all for free speech but when your dealing with the Chinese government you can’t be so rash . I mean use the US Embassies which aren’t Chinese territory and they will have to go through some hoops to get it removed (meaning bad press for the US).

    PS: first post here on boing boing

  74. Jeff says:

    Takuan worry about being right in your next incarnation. For now, in this life, you will have to be happy being a rug weaver. It’s your kharma. Now that’s the Tibetian Truth. Is that the kind of Truth you buy into? Communism seems liberal by comparison.

  75. BDewhirst says:

    #52:

    Do you question that the Lamas were brutal dictators for the period of time over which they administrated Tibet, or that they took money from the CIA, or that the track record of brutal dictators who’ve taken money from the CIA isn’t especially democratic (regardless of what those dictators said while they were out of power?)

  76. avraamov says:

    #57 –

    free the chinese then.

  77. glamajamma says:

    @67
    I had a point by point response but you aren’t going to listen so I deleted it. Believe what you want to believe. To me Tibet is empty political consumerism.

    • Antinous says:

      glamajamma,

      So far, you’ve shrieked like a howler monkey, told us that you have a point-by-point analysis that we don’t deserve to see and misspelled Dalai Lama quite a few times. I’m having a very, very hard time taking you seriously as anything other than a high-pitched concern troll.

  78. Takuan says:

    Jeff,the only blasphemy Buddhism really recognizes is talking about it without any knowledge or work.
    Whenever anyone asks the Dalai Lama about evangelism or conversion his standard reply is “We don’t want any.” Tibetan Buddhism is for Tibetans. Those that wish it anyway. General life lessons about kindness, compassion and responsibility are free for the taking. No obligation. Please come again.

  79. Takuan says:

    Go James!!

  80. arkizzle says:

    #65 by me:

    #56 weak.

    Looks like we got renumbered, I was responding to (currently) #57 GLAMAJAMMA’s assertions.

    My profound apologies to you, Avraamov. Although I do wonder what compliment you took from “weak” in the context of my other posts.. :)

  81. mujadaddy says:

    #51 posted by AGF , August 19, 2008 1:04 PM

    @ 40 Mujadaddy: FAIL. perhaps you could call me on cultural colonialism or something. we could have an interesting debate on that. but terrorism? giggle. next thing you know you’ll be calling me a commie. better dead than red right? . . .

    Whaaaaat are you talking about? I never said that *I* considered it terrorism — but now I have two people who think that’s what I said. I said that by the only standard that matters, the interpretation of law enforcement in the relevant jurisdiction, it is terrorism to bring up Tibet as anything other than part of China.

    Love the personal attacks, though. I’m not scared of them, though, so keep trying if that’s your bag, man.

    @#60 Avraamov, “Free the Chinese” < ---> That.

  82. MaximusNYC says:

    The jadedness in this comment thread amazes me.

    The attitude seems to be “Everyone knows how the Chinese government is. What a n00b this guy is for daring to raise his voice against it. We should accept the status quo, and not do anything juvenile or naive like participate in a protest.”

    I’m sure he knew full well what the risks were. All signs suggest that the goal was to draw maximum attention to the nature of Chinese repression… and getting arrested is one way to do that. (It’s called civil disobedience — you may have heard of it.)

    Kudos to James for actually trying to take a stand, instead of just going with the flow* like many Americans (and American corporations) seem inclined to do these days.

    Is BB only read these days by Chinese nationals, and/or employees of Yahoo, Google, Cisco, Wal-Mart, and others making a buck from colluding with Beijing? Or is it just a case of smug geek superiority run amok?

    *Cash flow, that is.

  83. Anonymous says:

    For anyone to believe that nobody involved has seen this coming, it must take some serious delusion.

    I’ve talked to James about this project a little over a month ago and hell yeah everyone around *was* aware what this kind of action could mean to the people involved.

    Best of luck to him and all the other SFT guys.

  84. Bledsoefilms says:

    You know, I see all this talk of “he should have know” and “not the brightest idea,” so lets get something straight here. This was not just some kid tagging cars because he had too much money and too much time to do anything constructive- this isn’t just some two bit punk trying to make a name for himself.

    Lets be realistic, the atrocities that have been committed against the Tibetans by China are beyond comprehension for most of us. Imagine not being able to leave your country, not being able to practice your religion, not being able to communicate, having your family torn apart, relatives raped and murdered and most importantly, having ALL MEANS of TELLING YOUR STORY squandered by a militant authority.

    THAT is WHY he made such a “stupid” decision. Public awareness can often be the only weapon you have- that’s why we count on the media to ensure our freedoms (to an extent). Tibetan’s don’t have the luxury of a media, and lord knows there hasn’t been one ounce of coverage on Tibet on NBC. Desperate times call for desperate measures- foolish? Perhaps.

    “The reasonable man adapts himself to his environment. The unreasonable man adapts the environment to him. As a result, progress is left to the work of unreasonable men.”

    Derek Bledsoe
    Segment Producer, BBtv

  85. Jack says:

    @#26 POSTED BY BLEDSOEFILMS:
    There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

  86. Antinous says:

    but if you believe my position arises from ignorance, you’re obliged to present evidence to that effect.

    No, you are required to provide reputable-source citations for your claims. Get it straight.

  87. AGF says:

    #61 posted by mujadaddy , August 19, 2008 1:51 PM
    Well I’m glad that’s not your definition. And yes I’m being a bit cranky today so sorry.
    You said: “This behavior can be, and is, defined as international terrorism, like it or not.” You didn’t specify by whom. Now that I’ve read your next comment I follow.
    I still think you should rethink the civil disobedience thing though.

  88. Eduardo Padoan says:

    Commenting here just to support James. I hope he is Ok too. Agree 100% with #25 by MaximusNYC.

    The Olympics are a big piece of propagandda for its hosts — not that this is wrong, but why cant the people visiting make their propaganda too?

  89. David B says:

    That’s bad news – his art is great and I hope he’s doing alright. It’s not really surprising, though; did he imagine that he would get away with a highly-visible event like this in Beijing during the Olympics?

  90. matt joyce says:

    Why is no one boycotting this olympic games? I mean really… we’ve boycotted the olympics for a lot less.

  91. AGF says:

    Mujadaddy,
    I said: “I think as long as we are…going somewhere and saying “hey! stop violating basic human rights that we all agreed on.” We are safe.”
    you said:
    “Yet that is not what happened, is it?”

    Sorry? What? That’s exactly what people are protesting.

    How about:
    Universal Declaration of Human rights: Article 18.
    Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

    You can read the whole thing at: http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html

    Re France. Good example and I still think it’s Civil disobedience.

    Re Rastafarians – I think you’re being obtuse. In any case, people in Dubai have the right to freedom of religion – if intoxicating substances are against their religion that needs to be respected. On the other hand if there was a movement of Rastas in Dubai and some others wanted to come and help – sure. As far as Rastas simple visiting – it gets even more complex. The whole business of tolerating intolerance and how much freedom people can have before it impedes others freedom is no simple matter.

    “How many people, percentage-wise, in Beijing care about autonomy for Tibet?”

    Doesn’t matter. Even if you only want to count people that live in China – as far as China is concerned Tibet is China – so LOTS of people who live in China care about autonomy for Tibet.

    So ok. We aren’t going to agree. Thanks for talking about it though. I have my definition of civil disobedience and you have yours. I do think that China needs to be accountable to the universal declaration of human rights – just like all of us.

  92. jonnygoldstein says:

    This is the best possible time to do what James did. With the international spotlight on him, chances are he’ll be quickly released. Getting arrested is good publicity for the free Tibet movement. It’s called civil disobedience. Good for him.

  93. Rider says:

    poking a bear with a short stick.

    What the hell was he thinking.

  94. AGF says:

    #80 Mujadaddy
    Wiki says: “Civil disobedience is the active refusal to obey certain laws, demands and commands of a government, or of an occupying power, without resorting to physical violence. It is one of the primary tactics of nonviolent resistance. In its most nonviolent form (known as ahimsa or satyagraha) it could be said that it is compassion in the form of respectful disagreement.”

    So I have a couple of problems with your argument. Firstly, you said, “”Civil” refers to the citizens disobeying” So one needs to be a citizen to disobey? What about when you live somewhere but you are so disenfranchised that you are not even considered a citizen? Or you have been taken somewhere? Think african slaves in america. Citizens are not the only people affected by the laws – but they are usually the only ones who can legally affect them. You are not required to be a citizen of a country to be held accountable under their law – so reciprocally – you can also civilly disobey without being a citizen.

    As far as the ethics of civil disobedience in a country that you are not a citizen of:
    I understand being nervous about going to another country to argue with them. It has notes of imperialism, colonialism and missionary action. However we do have basic human right which have been agreed on by many countries – The UN charter. So I think as long as we aren’t going somewhere and saying things like “hey! you should dress like a white chick!” but rather – “hey! stop violating basic human rights that we all agreed on.” We are safe.

    The other part of this is – what about when the citizens/residents (like Tibetans) want our help? I think that is also a perfectly good reason to get involved, especially when foreigners have a much better chance of surviving protesting.
    During the american civil rights movement white northerners came down south to help black southerners. We are very much involved with China. We buy so much of their stuff that we are already tied to them. There are many people from China, Tibet and Hong Kong in north america who affect our lives everyday. I think you need to stop being so wrapped up in borders and laws.

  95. Eduardo Padoan says:

    @#27 posted by Jack
    Educate us, then. What else should we be doing to raise public awareness about the crimes commited by the PRC?

    What this guy have is art and guts. I admire him *a lot*.

  96. Moon says:

    He gets a lot of PR out of it. Which fits in with the whole modern Olympic ethos.

    He’s just hoping they don’t put him in the Chinese version of “pound-me-in-the-ass” prison.

  97. pork musket says:

    Yeah, that seems like a really bad idea.

  98. human says:

    its curious that we live in a world where shooting harmless light across the sky can make a man disappear, and people think he’s dumb for it.

    come on guys.

  99. Joel Johnson says:

    I commend his attempt, but why did he publicize it beforehand?

  100. Jeff says:

    Takuan, so that makes you a Blasphemer? You talk like you know the Truth? Is that your Kharma?

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