Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Tibet Issue, Media Coverage, and My Thoughts..西藏和媒体報道...チベットとメデアーの報道...

I didn't really want to post this as I've never really posted on anything which was such a politically sensitive and highly charged topic (if you count out the WW2 and Japan posts which i write frequently on...haha) but I thought I would anyways cos I wanna let out what I feel about this issue.

This would also be the second China-related post I've done in my entire blogging life (after my recent trilogy on Taiwan) and my very first post on China itself, given that Taiwan is a China-related topic but certainly isn't part of China, being a sovereign nation in itself.

I wasn't really interested in the whole Tibet uprising in its early stages but as the media attention continued, the torch relay protests expanding, counter-protests by Chinese, and the boycott of Carrefour as well as the 'I Heart China' campaign on MSN, I decided to read up on the facts and the media reportage. I managed to watch a whole lot of youtube videos on CNN, BBC, and Taiwanese, HK, and Japanese media reports on the incident and how they reported it. I also read the collection of media articles by both Western and Chinese journalists on the Tibet riots and after all that, never felt as confused as I do now. I mean I've always been pretty pro-Tibet and although I've always been opposed to Tibetan independence, I've always been sympathetic to their plight and feel that more can be done to address their grievances as well as to give them more autonomy, such as in the Hong Kong case...maybe another SAR region for Tibet whereby Tibetans govern all domestic matters leaving only diplomacy and military matters in the control of the Central Government in Beijing??

But after seeing the videos and media articles, I was abit shaken by the Western (and Taiwanese and Japanese too!!) media bias as I always had great confidence in these media sources and felt that they could ALWAYS be trusted on any China-related issues as opposed to the mainland Chinese media which as everyone is well aware, is highly controlled and restricted in its ability to report without a bias towards favouring Beijing's official line. But this Tibet incident really made me less accepting of Western media outlets now and reminded me of the need to always accept all news critically, whether from Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, or Western media....no media was totally fair, unbiased, or objective in its nature.

To be fair, the western media, after strong protests from Chinese netizens (which form a powerful force now) shifted their pro-Tibet biased reporting and were generally more balanced in reporting the Tibet issue and the uprising towards the end of the affair.

I am glad the Chinese have been protesting as I do feel their grievances are valid...and it showed me for the first time that the Western media could be biased as well according to what people wanted to see....for instance I've heard that Western reporters like to go into China and interview people about freedom of speech, human rights, etc and when they don't get the responses they 'want to hear' they get dissapointed. eg.: We are suffering in China, there is no freedom of speech in China, the one child policy is horrendous and i suffered alot, or gays have no freedom in China and we are persecuted, etc...you get the picture..

On the current issue of Tibet, initially there was absolutely no report of Tibetans looting, burning, and even killing ethnic Han Chinese in the uprising...all you got was Chinese tanks going in and crushing the rebellion...of course, later on, we came to know much of the destruction wrought by the Tibetan rioters...basically Chinese stores were marked and looted and destroyed and Chinese people were attacked on the streets with rocks and stones thrown at them...all for being ethnic Chinese...and the chinese media also reported ethnic chinese hiding in their homes and speaking in hushed tones for fear that Tibetan rioters would hear their Mandarin dialect and attack them in their homes...in fact, I think there was an improvement with the Olympics truly having made China more democratic than before...i mean Western tourists (actually all foreigners) were allowed to stay in Tibet throughout the worst of the uprising and even one Western reporter was officially allowed to go into Tibet and report by the Chinese government...I mean they could have easily cancelled his pre-approved permit....later, the Chinese govt even organised an officially approved foreign journalist group tour of Tibet and allowed monks to interrupt the session for over 15 mins during the process and speak their mind...people say the monk's interruption embarrassed the chinese govt, but really these ppl have no idea of the power and dictatorship of the chinese govt, if it had wanted to prevent these monks from reaching the reporters, it could easily have done so, and not allowed them to stay for 15 mins..the chinese govt could have easily locked them away somewhere or even if they managed to come drag them out in 5 mins at max and not allow for the Tibetan monks to vent their anger for a whole 15 mins before being hauled away by authorities...this is an important improvement and I think we should give encouragement and approval where its due instead of complaining endlessly about how bad the Chinese government is.

Then not only were foreigners allowed to remain (unlike in 1989, when all foreigners and reporters were kicked out of Tibet and where the government crushed the revolution from day one) but the government allowed the Tibetan rioters to rampage thru the city of Lhasa for 2 full days before clamping down, and even then, it was reported the People's Liberation Army units were not fully armed and it was clear that the government was well aware of international attention on how it would handle the situation and thus was keen to avoid a repeat of the 'Tiananmen Incident' of 1989 where it crushed student dissent and calls for democracy. I mean i found the government really improved this time round precisely due to the Olympics and so Western and Japanese reports of the government 'mercilessly' crushing down on the uprising is hardly true... i mean even pictures of tanks being brought in is reported as crushing the uprising...i mean the rioters have caused havoc on the streets and are looting shops and harming people based on their ethnicity, what do you expect any sane government to do?? Just allow the riots to go on??? Similarly when police arrest people suspected of being involved in the rioting, the media in the west and in taiwan and japan make it seem like it was 'crushing down on dissent', i mean even in the West, you would still arrest people for destroying public as well as private property right?? Why does it all of a sudden become 'undemocratic' when it happens in China?

Similarly, I've seen British and French police manhandling protesters during the Olympic torch relay (often very violently and with much force) but I don't see media reports of 'police brutality' when this happens in the West....and of cos, if it happens in China it becomes exactly that..I think sometimes theres a double standard working here...

Similarly, when Tibetans and their supporters chant 'Tibetans are being killed' or there's 'cultural genocide' in Tibet, its simply misinformation and platantly untrue. Chinese authorities do NOT go around killing off Tibetans in Lhasa or in Tibet as if it were a modern-day 'holocaust' and extermination process nor is Tibetan culture banned or purposely sidelined. In fact, the Chinese authorities actively promote Tibetan culture and its language for tourism purposes as tourism revenues are vital for the economy of Tibet and for keeping stability in place...where's the 'cultural genocide'? Even street signs and govt buildings have Tibetan script written on them which was something that surprised me, heck, many nations do not have such progessive minority policies in place and I think China should be given due credit for its minority policies...even in Malaysia whereby 40% of the population is non-Malay (the majority population) minority scripts such as Chinese or Tamil are not used on road signs nor govt buildings...of cos minority words are used but always in the majority script, China also uses Tibetan names written in Chinese but puts up Tibetan script above the Chinese thus allowing for dual writing systems on its public roads...hardly 'cultural genocide' no?? And further, this is done for all of China's autonomous regions (as far as i know) whereby minority groups with large populations reside...so for example in Yanbian in the north, bordering N.Korea, Korean script is used alongside Chinese on roads and public buildings (again; correct me; if i'm wrong)...Tibet forms an autonomous region of China and thus is allowed greater autonomy than the rest of China...so it isn't fair to say that Tibet is so 'mercilessly oppressed' when its not...in fact, being a minority such as Tibetan is much better in China than being a Han in some significant respects...eg: minorities in China are free from the one-child policy meaning a Tibetan can have more than one child whilst an ethnic Han Chinese cannot, and also extra marks are added on to the all-important university entrance exam scores such that minorities such as Tibetans and Mongols and Koreans can get into university places easier. Now, this type of 'affirmative action' policies in favour of minorities (i've heard of Chinese friends whom say people actually want to be listed officially as a minority race if they have some minority blood in them just to get the benefits) is prob never reported in the West cos it doesn't fit into the 'big bad stereotype' of China.

I am not trying to help China or the Chinese state but i just feel in terms of minority policies and Tibet it isn't as bad as its made out to be, IN MY OPINION. (very important qualification as this is just my personal opinion, a subjective opinion, cos i'm sure there'll be others who disagree strongly with me and say its living hell in Tibet) That, however, isn't a blank check for the Chinese authorities to ignore the grievances of the Tibetan people cos something is obviously failing in its Tibet policy for this uprising to have occured and thus its Tibetan policy MUST change. I believe the Dalai Lama is not to blame for the riots and attempts by the Chinese to tarnish his image incessantly has failed and so they should start a dialogue with him constructively and stop painting him as a 'devil'. I think its counterproductive and given that the Dalai Lama is merely asking for more autonomy for Tibet (he has never once asked for full Tibetan Independence) China can clearly negotiate and hold talks with him. I don't understand why it isn't willing to do so when the Dalai Lama's demands are not impossible to meet. Similarly, whilst the Western and Japanese media could well do more to highlight the damage to Chinese and Hui (another minority group living in Lhasa) livelihoods and casualties during the Tibetan uprising recently, the mainland Chinese media should also not ignore the causes and grievances of the Tibetans of the recent uprising and not simply highlight Chinese loss whilst ignoring the arrests of Tibetan monks peacefully protesting, as well as the sincere demands of the Tibetan people for greater autonomy.

Lets just hope there is a peaceful solution to this issue and some kind of meaningful and peaceful dialogue will assume between the Dalai Lama (whom i respect greatly) and the Chinese govt after the recent Tibetan uprising.

14 comments:

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hcpen 彭皓全 said...

mr.galle: thanks! by the way, ur blog is all about music,so how did you find my blog? watashi no blog ha dou yatte mitsukarimashita?

aimlesswanderer said...

Every piece of journalism or someone's opinion is biased to some degree. Thinking that the 'Western media', or any other group are unbiased is rather naive.

Don't forget that since journalists were banned from Tibet and neighbouring areas there weren't really any journalists on the ground, who could have better found out and reported what was going on. As it was, they were trying to report on things remotely, with very little to go on. What were they going to report, that they didn't know anything and had no idea what was going on? No, they mixed rumour (from Tibetan independence sources most likely, who are likely to be biased, naturally), occasionally wild speculation, and their perceptions of the CCP does to anyone who doesn't do what they want, and it's no wonder that what was produced was often inaccurate and sometimes alarmist. In a large measure that's a result of the banning of reporters - an information vacuum which was filled with rumour and speculation in the absence of fact.

Of course everyone - despite what they may think - has preconceptions about just about everything, based on their upbringing, and what they have read and heard. Yes, many furriners go to China and are surprised that most people aren't obviously oppressed. Just like I would guess that many Chinese reports go the the US and find that things aren't what they expected either.

The "great economic gains and the new wealth" (which the CCP always touts) which has flowed into Tibet have disproportionately gone to the new Han Chinese migrants, which has, not surprisingly, made people unhappy. Though the CCP would deny it, what has happened to Tibet is basicaly like what the old (Evil) colonial powers did. They came in and took over a "backwards" country and its people, installed their people to run things, brought people from the home country in as settlers (who did far better than the natives), absconded with the local resources, and claimed that they had made things "better". In some ways things are better, but in others..... A similar but forgotten thing has happened to Xinjiang, where a more violent separatist movement has bubbled away for decades. Xinjiang has alot more natural resources, though.

If you were a Tibetan and were seeing the new migrants come in and take over everything, and you and your fellow natives were getting shafted, would you be unhappy too? There isn't really any way for them to vent their anger besides rioting. Here we can slag off the government as much as we want, we can vote for someone else, we can protest, but in China you get arrested for that. That said, there was probably a group of persons helping to organise things,

What do you think the reaction would have been if the CCP had dragged out all the foreign tourists, many of whom would not want to leave? It would have been a public relations disaster, and would have been an admission that the place was out of control. Letting them stay was simply the better, less messy option, since they weren't being targeted.

I am sceptical that monks venting their anger during a 'controlled' visit to a pre sanitised monastery is a sign that things aren't as bad as we might think. More likely they thought that they had crushed dissent at the monastery and were surprised that it happend, and had to figure out what to do once it happened. If they were trying to send a signal to the world with that I think it failed completely.

It is true that, because of international sensitivities, the response wasn't as heavy handed as it might have been, but many people will still feel sympathy with the rioters because they have gotten a raw deal. And as I mentined earlier, they have few other ways to express themselves. People here are allowed to demonstrate - in China the aren't unless it is officially sanctioned, like the protests against Carrefor.

The problem that the CCP had gotten itself into was that, after a lifetime of demonising the Dalai Lama, it was kinda hard to suddenly reverse course and talk to him, and then to do a deal. Now they've agreed to some talks, but certainly nothing much seems to have resulted yet, and there are concerns that they were only staged to placate the pesky furriners. Hopefully, though it may take years, they'll be able to sort something out. In the long term if this prompts both sides to come to an agreement this may be a good thing.

It seems like most Chinese think that Tibet was a primitive feudal theocracy (which I suspect is close to the truth), rather than a utopian Shangrila which is the vague Western view. The DL also apparently owned slaves, and for decades there was a CIA funded guerilla movement running loose. He also seems to have some fairly hard line view about gays too, which seem to be toned down for his western audiences. Thus most Chinese wonder why, since things are much better there in some ways, there is so much criticism.

Both sides were only making it worse, though it seems to have cooled down now. Attention has now focussed on the earthquake and the cyclone. The Chinese see all the fuss as anti China, and there is an element of that. The Western media is often lazy and resorts to easy "Evil Chinese Government" stories. The Chinese media does what the CCP tells it to do, ie propagate the view that the Evil Furriners are out to sabotage the Olympics and insult China, and that All Is Well in Tibet.

All this nationalism is useful to the CCP in that the Chinese people have been distracted from worries about corruption and price rises, and they are more supportive of the CCP. If things get out of hand however, xenophobia would be a huge problem for them (and everyone else), and could lead to serious economic and political problems. The West sees a boycot as only a protest against some of the problems in China, but the Chinese would take it as a grave insult, so I think that it would be a bad idea.

The earthquake and the somewhat uneven but generally prompt response of the CCP has also increased support for the government, though there are some uncomfortable questions which are now being asked about construction standards and corruption, especially at schools. At least they seem to have learnt a few things, and there weren't really any restrictions on media access this time. Certainly a much better response than the good ol paranoind generals in Myanmar. BTW, where are the requisite Evil Burmese Junta, and the Tragic Earthquake in China posts?

OK, that's enough, off to sleep.

hcpen 彭皓全 said...

aimlesswanderer: wow.....that was a lenghty post....I appreciate ur thoughts on the matter but like i said, i think the chinese government has improved alot as it could have easily locked away the monks somewhere at that journalist's conference when the monks barged in or shipped all the foreigner tourists from Tibet so that it can censor the information instead of allowing the foreigners to witness the uprising and being unable to control what they say...
like they did in 1989.;)
Anyways, I should let you know about the rockclimbing thing, i've just been very busy with other stuff, lets arrange a time sometime!)

aimlesswanderer said...

It is true that things are better than they used to be, partly because the CCP wants to be seen as a responsible emerging power (and are thus somewhat responsive to foreign criticism), and because of the impossibility these days of keeping something huge secret. With all the mobile phones, the internet, and so much travelling, keeping large incidents quiet is virtually impossible. Not to mention that trying to do so may come back and bite you in the ass, as the SARS episode did.

Hopefully things will gradually get better, but as long as the CCP's main goal is to keep a monopoly on power, things will only get better up to a point. The recent restrictions (with more to come likely) on media access to badly affected areas in Sichuan, where the locals are not happy, are an illustration of how things are open up to a certain point (ie when they start to endanger the government).

Ok, let me know when.

hcpen 彭皓全 said...

aimlesswanderer: Yea, I agree...anyways, I shall inform u of when I'm free...weekends or weekday nights is better??:) regards, Adrian

aimlesswanderer said...

Either should be ok. It's much warmer during the day, if you get cold easily.

bkkdreamer said...

Hi from Bangkok,

The link you have provided to my blog is not working. Would you mind correcting it, please? The name is Bangkok of the Mind, the address is http://bkkmindscape.blogspot.com/ .

Thanks.

hcpen 彭皓全 said...

aimlesswanderer: Ok, why not this weekend? Cos i'm afraid of the cold....bzzzz...it's been so cold this past week. I'll email u or vice-versa for a day n time, prob sunday is good for me (is it open by any chance??)

hcpen 彭皓全 said...

bkkdreamer: It has been corrected.

aimlesswanderer said...

It is open on sunday, that's a better day for me.

hcpen 彭皓全 said...

aimlesswanderer: ok then, its confirmed then this sunday") what time this sunday??

Ethereal said...

It is refreshing to see a new and unbiased article about the Tibetan issue, It is sad that everyone blindly believes the western media. I think the main problem comes because Tibetans are very clannish and they are not able to tolerate chinese dictating terms to them in anyway to them. Protesting to the extent of sabotaging the Olympic torch relay does not speak highly of their attitude. But even in the future i think the Tibetan and Taiwanese independence issues will be clash points for Chinese and American Governments. Somehow reading your post has reduced my sympathy for Tibetan protesters dramatically.

hcpen 彭皓全 said...

ethereal: Thanks for the comment.:)