(Old blog) Day Six: Two eyebrow-raising incidents

I asked myself whether I was too harsh in my judgement of the Chinese delegation, and whether I was too mindful of behaviours which I considered to be demonstrating a lack of courtesy. I guess the reason was that, deep down, my Chinese blood was fuelling a yearning that my compatriots will carry themselves with dignity and not do things that may tarnish their image when they are in touch with the outside world. And I tried to convince myself that those of them who had been exhibiting what I considered as improper behaviour, such as thrusting video cameras at the faces of participants who were listening to a speech in the conference rooms or having a meal in the restaurant, smoking in public places or squatting on the floor, were not really participants or vegetarians but just members of the filming crew. But two incidents today nonetheless suggested that the problem was indeed a common one and had got on the nerves of some other participants.

I was attending a session this afternoon when someone tapped on my shoulder. I looked up and saw that he was the Indian man who had been on the day trip to Goa with us two days ago. He handed me a note on which was written: "Could you please tell the Chinese outside the room that they were disturbing the session?" I was sitting near the front, so I was not aware of what had happened at the back, which was where the door was, but the note seemed to be self-explanatory enough. I went out and saw that, around a desk on which the pictures taken during the last few days were on display, three or four women of the Chinese delegation were commenting boisterously on the pictures. It was only when I told them about the note that they began to show a little embarrassment and to keep the noise down. After the session, the Indian man came forward. "Thanks for your help," he said. "I have tried to tell them the problem before I came to you, but it didn't work. Maybe they couldn't understand me."

The "Grand Dinner" this evening, which took place at the big conference room, was true to its name. As it was the "last supper" of the congress, everyone dressed up for it. We took the opportunity to share our views about the congress, take pictures and say goodbye to each other. After the dinner, the entertainment programme began and all eyes were on the Manipur folk dances and martial arts performance on stage. But then one table began to get more and more raucous, to the point that eventually they had to be hushed. Who else could be at that table but those from the delegation?

Obviously, in sending that delegation to the congress, China was desperately trying to build a positive image and gain the respect of the outside world. But I firmly believe that you achieve that aim not by bossing around or trying to fool the world with cheap propaganda tricks but by being responsible and observing common courtesy and universally accepted standards. That, I think, is a lesson that will take the nation a long time to learn.

(To be fair to the delegation though, I should mention that there have been positive comments submitted by some congress participants to the International Vegetarian Union website. Here are a couple of extracts:

". . . the Chinese Vegetarian Union delegation (21 or more people) that came to the WVC . . . were impressive - professional, outgoing, and charming, even with pretty limited English. They joined IVU."

"Mrs. Shah had been so engrossed in all the efforts to bring the event to pass, she confessed she didn't even realize the Closing Banquet fell on her birthday. Few would have known had it not been for the vivacious, young Chinese girl who headed up the Chinese Delegation. She rushed up to the podium just as the ceremony had been adjourned, and called us all back to sing a hearty HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MRS. SHAH!")

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