Following last week’s expulsion of 20 Hong Kong journalists from Lhasa that was roundly criticised by the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China has issued an updated call for China to grant reporters unhindered access to Tibetan areas:
“Reporting interference is not in the interest of the Chinese government which is trying to show a more open, transparent and accountable image to the world,” said FCCC President Melinda Liu.”
As of March 21, the FCCC has been informed of more than 39 foreign journalists who have faced obstruction while reporting on topics related to Tibet. In some instances Chinese authorities scrutinized, confiscated or deleted reporting materials. The locations where the reporting interference occurred include Lhasa, Beijing, Chengdu in Sichuan Province, Xining and Tongren in Qinghai Province, and several locations in Gansu Province.
On March 20 in Chengdu, reporter for Swedish Radio Hanna Sahlberg said police questioned a hotel receptionist she had been interviewing for about five minutes in Chengdu and told her “there is a new rule, you are not allowed to interview in this area.” The police declined to say which area, when the “new rule” started, or who issued it.
“Such interference is not in keeping with reporting regulations adopted during the Olympics period — and is especially not in keeping with the international community’s expectations of an Olympic host nation,” said Liu.
Apart from James Miles of the Economist who had the good fortune of being the only foreign journalist with official permission to be in Lhasa when the violence erupted (we also highly recommend this transcript of an interview with CNN), other journalists made it close to the action. Tim Johnson, the Beijing bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers, managed to report from western Sichuan although he was unable to get into Tibet. Richard Spencer of The Telegraph reports of his encounters with “little posses of familiar faces from Beijing and Shanghai” as he made his way into Tibetan towns in Gansu and Qinghai, the foreign affairs office jeep that drove him and his team out of the “black zone” to meet up with “quite a club of exiled journalists”, and the standoff with Chinese police that he experienced in Luqu, Gansu.
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives (US), has visited the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, and described recent developents in Tibet as “a challenge to conscience of the world”. In addressing a crowd of 2,000 consisting of mostly Tibetans, she said:
“We are here at this time to join you in shedding bright light on what is happening inside Tibet,” she said. “Little did we know we would be coming at such a very sad time. Perhaps it is our karma, perhaps it is our fate we be with you at this time.”
“If freedom loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China’s oppression and China and Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world.”
Response from the Chinese side came swiftly:
A few hours later came a tart response from the Chinese ambassador to India, calling Tibet an “internal affair” and shunning interference. “We don’t allow anybody to meddle in China’s internal affairs,” Zhang Yan told reporters in New Delhi, the Indian capital, according to the Press Trust of India. “Any attempt to cause trouble to China is doomed to fail.”
Within a couple of hours of those remarks, Tibetan protesters scaled the fence of the Chinese embassy compound, ran around its lawns and unfurled Tibetan flags. Police said a total of 33 protesters were arrested and security around the mission was fortified.
The latest protests complicated matters for the Indian government, which has had to strike a delicate balance between maintaining warm relations with China and hosting the Dalai Lama, along with about 100,000 Tibetan refugees.
In response to journalists’ questions on Pelosi’s remarks, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang claims that the governments of almost 100 countries have “conveyed to China or demonstrated in public their support for China’s action to safeguard the national sovereignty, territorial integrity and stability in Tibet and condemned the violence and those who masterminded the crimes”, and that this is “clear proof that the international community is on the side of China”. Here are the countries that Xinhua says are supporting China:
A spokesman of the Foreign Ministry of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Thursday strongly denounced the unsavory elements of their moves to seek “the independence of Tibet” and scuttle the upcoming Beijing Olympics.
He expressed support to the Chinese government in its efforts to ensure social stability and the rule of law in Tibet and to defend the fundamental interests of the Tibetan people.
A spokesman of Mongolia’s Foreign Ministry reiterated that Mongolia adheres to the one-China policy and recognizes Tibet as an inalienable part of China.
The Foreign Ministry of Nepal said in a statement that Tibet is an inseparable part of China and it appreciates the commitment by the Chinese government to peace, stability and progress.
A spokesman of the Bangladeshi Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on Thursday, expressing Bangladesh’s solidarity with China on the Tibet issue.
All matters pertaining to Tibet are internal affairs of China, the statement said.
Bangladesh wishes the Beijing Olympic Games great success and said it opposes the idea of politicizing the sports event, the spokesman said.
Kazakh Vice Foreign Minister Nurlan Baiuzakovich Yermekbayev told reporters that Tibet is an inseparable part of the Chinese territory, and the measures taken by the Chinese government in efforts to defend Tibet’s social stability is entirely China’s internal affair.
Adakhan Madumarov, speaker of the Kyrgyzstan’s parliament said the violent crimes in Lhasa have caused casualties among innocent people and damage to property.
He said Kyrgyzstan is very concerned about these events. The Tibet issue is an internal affair of China and Kyrgyzstan believes that the Chinese government and people have the capacity to safeguard the social stability in Tibet.
Tajik First Deputy Foreign Minister Abdullo Yuldoshev told Chinese ambassador to Tajikistan that his country strongly condemns the organizers and mobs who sparked the riots in Lhasa, firmly supports the measures by the Chinese government within the law to maintain social stability and strongly opposes the politicization of the Olympics.
Other nations cited in the lengthy Xinhua report include: Georgia, Syria, Fiji, Serbia, Zambia, Sierra Leone, Benin, Russia, Belarussia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Mauritania, Singapore, Lesotho and Congo. Clearly some of the most open and democratic nations of the world.
As the PR campaign to vilify the Dalai Lama shows no sign of relenting, elements within the Tibetan independence movement are growing increasingly impatient with the Dalai Lama himself, saying that his “middle way” policy will not work. Despite claims to the contrary by Beijing, the Dalai Lama has long retreated from seeking independence for Tibet, but is seeking greater autonomy. In his latest statements from Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama has invited China to provide evidence to show that the latest violence was orchestrated by him. He has also offered to resign if the violence does not end. In the event of a resignation, the Dalai Lama would step down as political head of the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, but remain the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism till his death (as would a Pope). Should that happen, more hardline elements from Dharamsala may surface to provide political leadership, such as the Tibetan Youth Congress and other “Free Tibet” parties who have recently met with the Dalai Lama for a closed-door meeting. These elements are not expected to accept anything less than full independence for Tibet, and may pose a greater challenge to Beijing.
Apart from the support China says it has from the international community, Xinhua also claims that top living Buddhas — whose reincarnations have all been approved by the government we suppose — have voiced their opposition to secessionism. Said Jamyang Losang Jigme Tubdain Qoigyi Nyima, a living Buddha and vice-president of the Tibetan Chapter of the Buddhist Association of China:
“It is only a very few people who were engaged in the sabotage activities. Most living Buddhas and lamas are patriotic.”
“The violence has disturbed normal order in lamaseries. The violence has been proven as having been masterminded by the Dalai clique. Ethnicity and religion were only deceitful camouflage. Their real motive was to disturb the stability in the Tibetan areas and undermine the order in lamaseries.”
The China Daily has also launched an offensive on biased reporting by Western media. In a report that singles out CNN, the Washington Post and the Berliner Morgenpost (Germany), it details the three most common errors made by Western media in reporting on the situation in Tibet:
1. Photos have been edited or manipulated to under-report violence on the part of Tibetans.
2. In dramatic pictures of policemen hitting Tibetan protestors that have been widely circulated, the policemen turned out to be Indian or Nepalese, but captioned as “Chinese”.
3. Pictures of Han Chinese getting pulled away to safety by the police were captioned as protestors getting arrested.
Top image from Oriol Gascon, Bottom image from China Daily.