Recently in Tibet Category

A Chinese student recently had the opportunity to interview the Dalai Lama in the United States, and his subsequent essay has been posted on numerous sites around the Internet. The China Digital Times has posted the English version (proxy link), and describes the student as:

Lingxi Kong (孔灵犀) is a fourth year student majoring in Greek and Latin at Columbia University. He met with the Dalai Lama on April 24, 2008, and wrote an essay recounting the meeting. The Chinese version has spread widely on the Internet, both inside and outside of China now.

Lingxi Kong asks several tough questions of the Dalai Lama. The whole essay, in English or Chinese, is well worth a read.

(h/t to Danwei)

The torch relay has been a disaster, no matter which way one looks at it. Historians will not connect the 2008 Olympic torch relay to such ideals as peace, harmony, or "one world, one dream". It will be remembered for protesters in London, Paris, and San Francisco - sometimes violent - and that image of Jin Jing clinging to the torch on the streets of Paris.

Much has been made of how the world is against China, to the point we've seen a psycho-analysis about western motives and comments on this blog about how westerners really don't understand China.

Amid this uproar, most western commentators (and regular people) have been quick to point out that nobody is against "China", just the government. As I've stated before, the government and the people are two very different entities. One can be a proud American and despise George W. Bush and the Republicans; likewise, one hopes that Chinese people can distinguish between criticism levelled at their government and criticism directed at the people. Although, admittedly, some protesters haven't been doing a good enough job of discerning between the two, especially when the line between them in China is blurred.

To further underscore the point that the criticism of China hosting the Olympics - and the torch relay - is not about being anti-China, we turn out attention to the media coverage of the torch relay in Hong Kong. Yes, Hong Kong, legally a part of Chinese territory (even though it sure doesn't feel like it when there). We toss to this article in the New York Times:

The day before, newspapers mingled images of official celebrations with coverage of protests. The English-language South China Morning Post and the Chinese-language Apple Daily and Ming Pao all ran photos of free-speech activists with gags over their mouths, and a three-story-high "pillar of shame," which depicts a jumble of naked corpses with desperate-looking faces. Ming Pao showed an inscription on the pillar's base reading: "The Tiananmen Massacre: The old cannot kill the young," a reference to the 1989 crackdown in Beijing, photos of which are still censored in the mainland press.

It continues...

Hong Kong's media, which have a tradition of using satire not always appreciated on the mainland, have been poking fun at Beijing's efforts to clean up its city and its residents. On April 19, TVB, a local television station that has programming in Cantonese, Mandarin and English, broadcast footage of a woman allowing her young child to relieve himself near the "Bird's Nest" Olympic stadium.
On April 23, The South China Morning Post followed up, calling a leaky roof at that same stadium an embarrassment. A few days later, it pointed out a shortage of toilets in an article headlined, "Beijing must shake off that know-it-all attitude."
The April cover of the Hong Kong-based Far Eastern Economic Review had a political cartoon of President Hu Jintao holding the torch with big earplugs blocking out noise from protesters. "Olympics Horribilis," the headline read.
On April 18, HK Magazine published an editorial "Torching the Torch," calling the relay "the perfect microcosm of modern China: a PR exercise surrounded by thugs with batons." The free weekly continued its taunt: "But what did China expect? A 21-gun salute and a welcome casserole?"

I have been a frequent visitor to Hong Kong, and one of my fears is that its press freedoms will slowly be suffocated until they become a lifeless corpse, like they are in mainland China. One needn't agree with Hong Kong's media coverage; the fact is that they have a right to print things that people may disagree with. Beijing deserves credit for keeping its promise of a hands-off approach.

Reviewing Hong Kong's torch relay coverage should also lay to rest the hollow conflict that has been created in the minds of China's restless fenqing: that it's the world vs. China, and the Chinese people need to rally together to protect their pride and fend off the hypocritical foreign barbarians. The fact that Chinese people on Chinese territory in the Chinese media also have problems with Beijing's policies speaks volumes. At the very least, one hopes this will make the patriotic Carrefour-boycotting masses wonder if they're getting the full story in the mainland press.

Oh, and Taiwan? The mainland government has been awfully silent about it lately, probably because the torch didn't, won't, and will never pass through that territory/region (take your politically correct pick) in 2008. And the fact that even Ma Ying-Jeou himself says he'd welcome the Dalai Lama to Taiwan, well....

At the end of the day, I totally understand the anger and frustration that is felt by young people in China. But when they are spoon-fed state-run propaganda and have little knowledge of the outside world, they develop a distorted sense of reality. It draws a feeling of pity more than frustration. The fact is that it's the Chinese government which was unprepared for these protests, which have led to the embarassment of China on the world stage. It is the Chinese government, and it's rigid policy in Tibet, which has resulted in worldwide anger. It is the Chinese government's reaction to unrest in Tibet, consisting of violent rhetoric, that has drawn the scorn of people worldwide. It is the Chinese government which has closed off Tibet to foreign reporters, but expects them to take its word without any verification or confirmation. It is the Chinese government which announces arrests in apparent planned terrorist attacks and then refuses to provide evidence of their claims.

These complaints are not attacks on the Chinese people, but are critiques of the Chinese people's current party in power. The Communist Party has done a lot of wonderful things for China - lifting 400 million people out of poverty comes to mind as one of the greatest achievements of any government in history. But this does not erase its atrocities, and the Chinese people must do a better job of holding their government to account.

Jim Yardley of the New York Times writes:

China appeared to bend to international pressure on Friday as the government announced it would meet with envoys of the Dalai Lama, an unexpected shift that comes as violent Tibetan demonstrations in western China have threatened to cast a pall over the Beijing Olympics in August.
China's announcement, made through the country's official news agency, provided few details about the shape or substance of the talks but said the new discussions would commence "in the coming days." The breakthrough comes as Chinese officials have pivoted this week and moved to tamp down the domestic nationalist anger unleashed by the Tibetan crisis and by the protests at the international Olympic torch relay.

This blog has been calling for renewed talks with the Dalai Lama from the beginning. It is a smart PR move which diffuses international criticism over Beijing's policy in Tibet, and undermines western arguments. Many are questioning whether China is serious about the discussions; from a PR perspective, this is irrelevant. Only the appearance of engaging in substantive talks is important, and may help salvage the Olympic games from being overshadowed by the Tibet issue.

What will be interesting to see is how China's state-run media, after demonizing the Dalai Lama in recent weeks, will pivot 180 degrees. I'm also curious to know how many Chinese people - who also passionately dislike the Dalai Lama - feel about these talks.

I think this is a good move for China. While the government should be applauded for taking the first steps towards reconciliation, there remains much work to be done.

Below is a video that was submitted in the comments section of Paul's previous post. It is a video that aims to raise awareness of aboriginal issues in light of Vancouver hosting the Olympic games in 2010:

Now, part of me is quite tickled that somebody did this, because it gives Canadians a chance to really draw a line in the sand over how to handle protests and concerns over human rights.

As readers of this blog will be aware, I am a Canadian citizen. I am from Victoria, which is just outside of Vancouver, another city I lived in for many years. I'm obviously extremely proud that Vancouver will host the world in 2010, and feel fortunate that my two hometowns, Vancouver and Beijing, have both been bestowed with this honor.

That being said, Canada is not perfect; far from it, in fact. Does the Canadian government have problems in the way it has historically dealt with the aboriginal issue? Absolutely. In the past, aboriginal children were forced to abandon their own traditions and attend Catholic schools. Many of these children were sexually abused. This just scratches the surface of the atrocious way aboriginals were treated by our forefathers. It is Canada's original sin, and remains a divisive issue today.

Over the years, Canada has drastically changed its aboriginal policy. However many would argue it is still not successful. Many aboriginal people live on reserves and the rates of alcoholism are unacceptably high; so are high school drop out rates. This is, I would submit, an embarassment for all Canadians.

But let me point out a couple of things:

  1. Aboriginal Canadians have a free right to protest
  2. Concerns of aboriginal Canadians are freely aired in Canadian media directly and through representative groups
  3. Aboriginal Canadians have unfettered and free access to practise whatever religion they choose, without state interference
Now, these are all rights and freedoms that Tibetans don't currently have, so comparing the two doesn't really work. But let's continue anyway. Whereas Chinese people are offended that people would dare criticize its policy, Canada is open to having this discussion. I'm not angry about this Youtube video, because I agree something needs to be done. But even if I disagreed with it, people have a right to raise the issues they are concerned about. This is the bedrock foundation of free speech.

Canada has matured over the years, and has now granted aboriginal Canadians all the rights, freedoms, and equality of all other Canadians. Despite this, the problem hasn't been solved. So you know what? I'm open to hearing what China thinks we should do, or anybody else for that matter. And if a country wants to boycott the Vancouver Olympics, I disagree with it; but I respect that decision.

The United States, too, is often the target of international protests and outrage. Think back to the lead-up to the Iraq invasion when millions of people protested US policy in cities all over the world. Did Americans lash out? Only to the degree they wanted to call "French fries" "freedom fries". Really, Americans don't care what other people think of them. Stable, successful countries can handle criticism in a mature way. That's part of the reason that I'm proud to be a Canadian.

Problems are solved through open and free discussion; this is not something to be scared or ashamed of. Airing concerns openly - with the possibility of some hurt feelings - is much more desirable than the mirage of glory and patriotism.

china-anti-french.jpg Chinese protesters are turning up the heat on France over the torch protests which happened in Paris. As the picture to the right shows, protesters painted a swastika on the French flag, and wrote that Joan of Arc was a prostitute.

The bezdomy ex patria blog writes:

Perhaps not the best way of communicating your ideas to the French people. It's not hard to imagine how Chinese people would react to having symbols of their World War 2 occupier added to China's national flag or the moral integrity of China's national heros slandered. Somebody needs to relearn that "do unto others" principle- and no, it does not end with "....before they do unto you".

A commenter on the previous blog pointed us to the photo (from Japan Probe) and this article in the Daily Yomiuri, which claims torch protests in Japan could draw even a more vile response from China:

"Reaction [in China to protests in Japan] would be huge in comparison to the reaction against protests in France," in which Web sites called for a boycott of French products sold at Carrefour stores, an international issue expert said, pointing out that negative feelings toward Japan remain strong in China due to historical issues.
A man in his 30s who runs a Web site that is popular with many Chinese "patriots," told The Yomiuri Shimbun, "Chinese people won't forgive [Japan] if the Japanese do the same things as the Americans and Europeans, such as making distorted reports about the Tibet issue."

With Japan and China's conflicts in the recent past, no doubt protests along the Japanese torch route would lessen the attention paid to France.

The New York Times has published an article today telling the story of a 20 year old girl at Duke University who tried to mediate between the Tibetan and Chinese protesters on campus:

Ms. Wang, who had friends on both sides, tried to get the two groups to talk, participants said. She began traversing what she called "the middle ground," asking the groups' leaders to meet and making bargains. She said she agreed to write "Free Tibet, Save Tibet" on one student's back only if he would speak with pro-Chinese demonstrators. She pleaded and lectured. In one photo, she is walking toward a phalanx of Chinese flags and banners, her arms overhead in a "timeout" T.
But the would-be referee went unheeded. With Chinese anger stoked by disruption of the Olympic torch relays and criticism of government policy toward Tibet, what was once a favorite campus cause -- the Dalai Lama's people -- had become a dangerous flash point, as Ms. Wang was soon to find out.
The next day, a photo appeared on an Internet forum for Chinese students with a photo of Ms. Wang and the words "traitor to your country" emblazoned in Chinese across her forehead. Ms. Wang's Chinese name, identification number and contact information were posted, along with directions to her parents' apartment in Qingdao, a Chinese port city.
Salted with ugly rumors and manipulated photographs, the story of the young woman who was said to have taken sides with Tibet spread through China's most popular Web sites, at each stop generating hundreds or thousands of raging, derogatory posts, some even suggesting that Ms. Wang -- a slight, rosy 20-year-old -- be burned in oil. Someone posted a photo of what was purported to be a bucket of feces emptied on the doorstep of her parents, who had gone into hiding.

We know a conflict has gone too far when even the mediators are demonized.

Rewriting history

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17tibet_450.jpgIt was only a couple of short years ago that Chinese people smashed Japanese businesses in Shanghai and marched on the embassy in Beijing over former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine and the use of school history textbooks that Chinese people felt washed over Japanese atrocities during World War II.

Well, how the tables have turned. While we know certain facets of Chinese history (ahem... like a little demonstration in a big square in 1989) are omitted from local history textbooks, the Chinese government is taking it one step further.

China is getting ready to open a museum on Tibetan history, and one in which the Dalai Lama will be edited out:

"He will not appear after 1959," said Lian Xiangmin, a Chinese scholar involved in the museum, referring to the year the Tibetan spiritual leader fled to India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. "This is a Tibet museum, and we don't recognize him as part of Tibet anymore."

The problem with this, of course, is China's version of "history" and "reality" are becoming far more distant and isolated from the rest of the world. And that leads to misunderstandings like we're witnessing now.

(Photo of Chairman Mao with the Dalai Lama (right) and Panchen Lama from the New York Times)

Events on Hainan Island this past weekend have created a potentially interesting international PR situation when it comes to Beijing's stance on its 'internal affairs of state.'

At this weekend's Boao Forum for Asia, Chinese President Hu Jintao met with Taiwan's Vice-President-elect Vincent Siew. Siew-Hu.jpg Both agreed that Beijing and Taipei would restart official dialogue when the new administration in Taiwan takes over at the end of May. These talks have been frozen since 1999.

But what I find interesting, and something that the anti-Beijing establishment might be able to key on, is Beijing's willingness to open up political discussions with the leadership in Taiwan, while at the same time refusing to meet with the spiritual leadership of the Tibetans. Why has Beijing become so steadfast in its unwillingness to sit down with the DL, while at the same time enter into talks with the same political organization, the KMT, which was bent on destroying the CPC until it was chased off the mainland in 1949? I'm looking forward to hearing some of the arguments on this question. And, just for fun, I'm going to try to presume and respond to the one I think would be the CPC's argument to this point:

  • The Dalai Lama is a 'splitist,' bent on Tibetan independence. So why should Beijing negotiate with someone who wants to break up the country. The people of Taiwan want to reunite with the mainland, so we're willing to talk with them.

Here's my two cents on this one: The Dalai Lama has been on record numerous times as saying that he just wants more autonomy for Tibet, not independence. Perhaps this is just a nefarious attempt to subvert Beijing's authority to the point where eventually independence will be reached for the Tibetan people. Who knows? But on the surface, the DL seems to be willing to make concessions to Beijing, so why not sit down with the guy and hammer some things out. And if it turns out that he was lying - and Beijing can prove it - then it's won. It's got its PR victory, and can just throw that in the face of anyone who says otherwise. And if it turns out the DL is as good as his word, then Beijing has still won, because it will likely quell any sort of complete independence movement within its borders, and can use the good will gesture to the Tibetan people as a PR victory to the world. But by not meeting with the DL and stoking up talks with Taipei, the anti-China establishment can use any forthcoming negotiations between Taipei and Beijing as a way to point out that Beijing says one thing and does another when it comes to its 'internal matters.'

CNN defends itself

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cnn_war_announcement_1991.jpg CNN has decided to issue a statement regarding the criticism it has received online and elsewhere:

CNN has been singled out for criticism for our coverage of events in Tibet through an Web site and elsewhere. We have provided comprehensive coverage of all sides of this story, but two specific allegations relate to pro-Tibetan bias. We would like to take this chance to respond to them:

Allegation 1: CNN intentionally cropped an image in order to remove Tibetan protesters throwing stones at Chinese trucks.
CNN refutes all allegations by bloggers that it distorts its coverage of the events in Tibet to portray either side in a more favorable light. We have consistently and repeatedly shown all sides of this story. The one image in question was used wholly appropriately in the specific editorial context and there could be no confusion regarding what it was showing, not least because it was captioned: "Tibetans throw stones at army vehicles on a street in the capital Lhasa." The picture gallery included in Tibet stories includes the image. (See the gallery)
We have also published images showing violence by Tibetans against the Chinese. A March 18 story shows Tibetan youths attacking a Chinese man. (Read the story)
Additionally, we have published video from the Chinese media apparently showing Tibetans attacking Chinese interests in Lhasa. (Watch the video)
Allegation 2: CNN referred to Tibet as a "country."
CNN's policy is to refer to Tibet as "Tibet Autonomous Region of China." In our dozens of stories on the topic to date, we are aware of only two instances where it was incorrectly referenced as a country.
CNN's reputation is based on reporting global news accurately and impartially, while our coverage through the use of words, images or video always reflects a wide range of opinions and points of view on every story.

An excellent opinion piece by Richard Spencer in the Daily Telegraph tells a side of the Tibet unrest that we haven't heard:

Those dependent on what the government has to say saw only soft-focus pictures of smiling folk dancers and peasants improving their lives through money funnelled from Beijing. That many Tibetans resented the Chinese would have seemed at best incomprehensible and at worst racist to an audience brought up on an ideologically correct vision of China's ethnic minorities living in harmony.

He looks at a friendship between a Han Chinese and an ethnic Tibetan that has fallen apart since the protests (or riots -- take your pick) in Lhasa.

Check it out.


Not that we want to promote Richard Spencer too much, but he has just posted his latest blog entry. It's his persperspective on the accusations of western media bias, and it's a fascinating read:

Sure, it is easy to jump from these errors to "the western media is biased and hates China so why don't you just go and leave us alone". But that, as far as I can see, is pretty much it. Why are we biased? How are we biased? What, specifically, are we saying or not saying about China and Tibet that so offends? What, apart from these pictures, have we got wrong?

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the Tibet category.

Tianjin is the previous category.

Transportation is the next category.

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