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Friend of Instructables and Friend of Humanity Held in China Answered

Long-time friend of Instructables James Powderly of GRL, FFFFFAT LAB and Throwies fame is currently reported to be held by the Chinese Government for over 24 hours without further word for planning a pro-Tibet LASER Tag event in Beijing.

"James is proud to have been kicked out of the Synthetic Times new media art exhibition in Beijing because he wouldn't censor his little art project. 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. But they did! It was after being kicked to the curb by the show's curator that James connected with Students for a Free Tibet and decided he would go to China anyway and do what he though was right in support of Tibet, Taiwan, free speech and the people of China. James lives, if indeed he is alive, in the County of Kings, Brooklyn, and teaches at the Communication Design and Technology program at Parsons the New School for Design. I am James Powderly and I approve of this message."

We wish the best to him and his family.

This via Boing Boing.


I think instructables should present him with a medal of bravery when he gets out for what he did as well as representing the most looked at 'ible ever. Seriously. Medal for him from Instructables!(or something else like a medal like a laser cut something or a robot etc) Good luck James! !!!Eric I'm Serious BTW!!!!

Whats free tibet?

They want to free (liberate) Tibet, the country.

Because Tibet in the past has been it's own country. China claims Tibet to be autonomous, yet any new laws have to be put by the Chinese Government. Tibetans are arrested, jailed, sometimes even killed if they bear the Tibetan flag.

Pretty much, they're really strict on what you can and can't do. If you try to resist or even query, they'll arrest you (which often results in relocation). Tibetan nomads who try to keep there own culture are forcefully relocated into POW looking camps. Where they're not allowed to leave the complexes and they are underfed.

If you're still interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nLIJQ_raZY

And all the 6 parts are definitely worthwhile watching. A guy goes undercover in Tibet. It's pretty interesting.

Did anyone notice Taiwan wasn't allowed to fly their own flag, or call themselves Taiwan during the opening ceremonies? They must refer to themselves as Chinese Taipei. I'm all for James P. and his boldness.

Because china is...err, not treating them right? I don't really know how to explain it.

I hope he comes out okay...I wouldn't want to be in a Chinese prison.

me neither, i've haerd about chinese prisons, they don't sound fun...:-(

That's a shame. There's all this talk about China's new image, but they're still the same as they ever were.

China as changed, it is not a police state anymore, child do not denonciate their parents, people do not get imprisonated simply because they know how to play piano, the people know how to read now. Sure china is still a dictatorship, they still practice torture ect. Most people who talks about china in that way never went there. I am not pro china though, and still think that this imprisonment is outrageous, and I fully support James Powderly

China has changed, but not so much as they would like people to think. Most of the show of the Olympics is just that. They spent roughly 50 billion dollars on the event (by comparison, Sydney spent about 6 billion), and almost none of it was on things to benefit the Chinese population after the event.

They claim to have cleaned the environment around Beijing, but they did it by banning civilians from driving their vehicles. They did it by marching the army into a lake to remove algae blooms by hand.

It is still an extreme, totalitarian state - it is an arrestable offence to simply display the word "Tibet" on anything anywhere near public view. Add the word "Free" to it, and half a dozen armed police will quickly and enthusiastically "advise" you about the official position. If you are not a prominent foreign national, then that "advise" will be given behind closed doors.

This is still the same government that ordered its armed forces to drive tanks over unarmed students.

(For your information, both my parents have been and spoken to "real" citizens, and my university had a large Chinese population.)

I definitely believe that the city of Beijing had the Army out cleaning up algae by hand. The PLA has a long history of doing public works projects. I know it's strange, but I've seen the Army out painting neighborhood walls, too. (Kinda like how the Army Corps of Engineers does public dam- and bridge-building in the US, but much more visible.) It's good PR for the Party, and what else are they gonna do all day? Invade Taiwan? (Joke!) The bit about "Tibet" being a forbidden word is wrong, however. Tibet (and Xinjiang and a few other provinces) are these semi-autonomous regions that "belong" to China since the 50's. As such, "Tibet" appears on every government-published map etc. Its not at all forbidden -- indeed there are tax incentives that encourage people to move to Tibet. It's very beautiful, and shockingly poor province. Think of like a third-world version of Wyoming. Granted it's a province with a separatist problem, so it's sensitive to suggest that Tibet secede from China. I'd bet for sure it's a crime to try to stage any sort of pro-secession rally/event. Here's the Tibet thing from the Chinese gov'ts perspective: they've got this semi-autonomous region that has a small minority of active separatists who seem willing to use violence to get even more autonomy. Other people (US, Europeans) keep calling for the state's outright secession, possibly provoking the violence and turning it into a shooting war. Now you've got a foreigner trying to make a high-profile demo at the Olympics. I wonder if it's illegal for foreign nationals to encourage civil war in the US? I wonder if it would be if there were a possibility of encouraging actual violence? Either way, the Tibet issue is tough. It's not like China took over a well-functioning democracy -- they took over an autocratic theocracy with a poverty problem that made even mid-50's China look well-off. If they even kept medical records before the Chinese takeover, I'd bet there's been a near-doubling in life-expectancy. The Chinese gov't brought electricity and increased access to running water and money and jobs and other things that actively improve people's (non-spiritual) lives. I'm not sure the indigenous gov't would have done as well for the Tibetan people. And it's far from clear that the majority of Tibetans would want to be "free." Anecdotally, I've spoken to Tibetans on both sides of the fence (and as a white foreigner I doubt any thought I was a gov't spy). So it's hard for me to espouse "freeing" a place that doesn't have strong consensus that it wants to be freed, especially if it might involve violence. So Tibet: tricky. China should be more open to discussions about the degree of autonomy that Tibetans want, instead of shutting it down. But it's not clear to me, as an American, that I understand the situation enough to be meaningfully involved in the discussion. (And I've lived in China for two years and touristed for a bit in Tibet, unlike most of the "Free Tibet" flag-wavers. I know just enough to know that I don't know enough.)

I agree with you for the most part, maybe I was a bit too positive you know. but it is is not the same government that ordered the massacre in 1989, saying this would be like saying that it's the same US government that dropped the 2 atomic bombs on Japan. Hu Jintao's government would never do again what they did at Tienanmen square in 1989.

Different faces on TV, same political party in control. That control is guaranteed by the nation's constitution, no matter what any future elections say. (That's the same constitution that they used to justify demolishing hundreds of homes to build the Olympic stadia).

They've had their PR team working overtime, that's for sure. :( I do hope he's okay. And I hope he gets more coverage.

Damn, now what am I going to do with this "Pray for China" bracelet... :D


9 years ago

It is unfortunate that James is missing. While his actions were with good intentions , for the most part was irresponsible on this part. While you are in a foreign country you are expected to follow there laws. At most, I feel that he will be detained and deported. While i can't what will happen to him between now and then, I don't believe China will executing him and the others during the olympics with the world entire watching. But if the Chinese attempt to, the state department might help reduce his sentence.

Wow... thats terrible! Its odd that I haven't really heard about this anywhere else... is it (hopefully) just new?

There's a lot going on that we don't get told.

Heh, what I meant was that it wasn't getting coverage. Something like this should be strewn about the interwebs more than just here.

(This was the first place I saw it. When I posted, it had not yet gotten to boingboing or Make. I hope/expect it will reach an even wider audience, but that's all I've seen...)

God bless you, James. It takes courage to stand up for what is right.

Hahahaaahhahahha :D *Added to the funny comment slideshow

A pro Tibet laser tag would be awesome Good luck to him