DOSTÁL – “He who has quit standing”. This name, reminiscent of an apathetic Indian chief, actually belongs among one of the younger and more active elders of the not-too-populous tribe of Slovak conservatives.
Ondrej Dostál, deputy chairman of the Civic Conservative Party (OKS), had in the past tried to sue the Fico government after it refused to release a recording of a cabinet meeting which might have proven illicit activities by its members. He tried to file criminal charges after the media repeatedly documented that the wealth of SNS boss Ján Slota greatly exceeds his official income. And he came to protest against violations of human rights in communist China when Chinese president Hu Jintao visited Bratislava a week ago. At the protest he was forced to ‘quit standing’ by law enforcement officers who handcuffed him on the ground following a conflict with Chinese ‘activists’. Dostál is no violent anti-globalist or anti-social pothead and his forceful seizure is a perfect illustration of how the Slovak government and police mishandled Hu’s visit.
It was no surprise that the Slovak socialist government invited the Chinese leader and had no intention of discussing the touchy issue of human rights. But the fact that Slovak police allowed mysterious Chinese men in black to harass demonstrators and then only stood by and watched as those men pushed a Chinese woman protester down the stairs is an outrage. It may be true that the Chinese will one day become the masters of all civilisation. But why act as though it has already happened?
Anything that occurs in Bratislava, including human rights protests, has a unique feature – since everything is in such a small scale it somehow appears much more real.
Joseph Stalin once observed that “the death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic”, and so it is with protest – the scene of armoured riot police attacking huge crowds can leave you cold. Slovak policemen in T-shirts and baseball hats watching the much smaller Chinese ‘diplomats’ in dark suits attacking the few dozen demonstrators standing a few metres away from bus stops at Hodžovo námestie where people with Tesco bags are waiting to go home somehow has a much more chilling effect. You see the bleeding Chinese girl. You see the hand-cuffed Dostál. And you see that after having to obey the Hungarians, the Germans, and the Russians, Slovaks are still much better at obeying than at standing up.