Beijing’s tightly scripted, carefully choreographed tour for a select group of 26 foreign journalists from 19 media organisations including the Associated Press, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, the South China Morning Post, Singapore’s Lianhe Zaobao, Taiwan’s Central News Agency, Al-Jazeera and Russian and Japanese media, was upstaged by 30 young Tibetan monks, some clearly emotional and weeping, who pushed their way into a news briefing at the J*kh*ng Temple, as you see in this video report by Al-Jazeera.
This is what they managed to tell journalists in the 15 minute outburst before media minders tugged at the journalists telling them it was “time to go”:
“They have destroyed the way we are seen by the people,” one monk said. “We are like prisoners here,” said another.
As the monks blurted out a stream of complaints, one cried: “The government is always telling lies, it’s all lies.”
“They killed many people. They killed many people,” a monk said.
Later, a monk speaking in Chinese said the death toll was far higher than the government was saying. “The cadres and the army killed more than 100 Tibetans. They arrested more than a thousand.”
“Tibetans have no freedom,” a monk said after some of them switched to Chinese. “We want the Dalai Lama to come back,” said another, adding that they were certain they would be detained when the reporters left.
“They want us to curse the Dalai Lama and that is not right,” a monk added.
Xinhua was by no means silent on the incident. It also assured:
These monks are not to be punished, said Baema Chilain, vice chairman of the regional government at a press conference to domestic and overseas media on Thursday evening.
“But what they said is not true. They were attempting to mislead the world’s opinion,” said the official. “The facts shouldn’t be distorted.”
Beijing’s selection of of the media participants on this trip has been questioned. Key media such as the BBC, CNN, Reuters and AFP were not invited, leaving them to scramble to get news from other sources, including their competitors.
The Foreign Correspondents Club of China has, in its latest statement, urged greater media access to Tibetan areas and protection of sources rights:
Chinese authorities have arranged a trip to Tibet from March 26-28 for a small group of international media. This brief, tightly managed trip falls far short of fulfilling China’s promise, made during its bid for the 2008 Olympic Games, of free media reporting.
The FCCC calls on the Chinese government to allow all other foreign correspondents who wish to report in Tibet, and Tibetan areas in other provinces, to be permitted to do so at the earliest possible date — and to enable them to work and travel without government interference.
We also urge Chinese authorities to allow the foreign media group that departed for Tibet March 26 unfettered freedom to report, and to safeguard the Constitutional right of free expression for Chinese nationals who agree to be interviewed. We are extremely concerned about recent reports that sources in Tibetan areas and elsewhere have experienced various forms of intimidation.
Lianhe Zaobao’s Beijing correspondent Han Yonghong’s acccount of the tour:
‘The monks were very emotional, and some of them were crying. They said they had been held inside the temple against their will for 17 days. Others asked the journalists to highlight the Tibetans’ plight. I’m saddened by what I’ve seen. In the daytime, there are lots of plainclothes policemen in the city centre. After dark, there are riot police and checkpoints as well. We saw very few Tibetans on the streets.
‘A taxi driver told us the Tibetans involved in the riots won’t dare come out and those not involved are scared of being arrested.
‘Those who suffered in the riots, be they Han Chinese or Tibetans, are all victims of the government’s inappropriate ethnic policy, I think.
‘The Han Chinese whose shops were wrecked during the rioting said they never expected such violence, and that relations with the locals had been good all along. But many scholars said in recent weeks that this was something waiting to happen.’
EastSouthWestNorth offers a translation of a report by United Daily News (Taiwan).
TVB’s (HK) account of the incident:
Reuters’ account of the incident: