3/18/2008

Information on the Tibet Situation

Many of us here at China Beat have been following very closely the story on the recent uprisings in Tibet and neighboring provinces. These are the sources we’ve been reading; if you have other recommendations for solid reporting and commentary on this developing situation, please post them in the comments section.

1. James Miles (Beijing bureau chief for the Economist and the author of
The Legacy of Tiananmen: China in Disarray, on China in the aftermath of 1989) is apparently the only Western journalist who is or was in Lhasa. He's published good reports like this one on the Economist's website and in the Times (London).

2. An NPR report in which they interview Miles and also Luisa Lim, NPR’s Shanghai correspondent.

3. Here's a good news round-up (to which China Beat’s Jeremiah Jenne has contributed).

4. For those curious about the cyberchatter the situation is generating, check out China Digital Times’ coverage. For translations into English of Chinese web chatter about Tibet, go to the Global Voices Online coverage here.

5. For those who would like to learn a little more about Tibet, here's a list of seven things Westerners often get wrong about Tibet by Donald S. Lopez, Jr., author of Prisoners of Shangrila.

6 comments:

kamisama said...

I've collect some info here at http://www.zaizhou.net/archives/125. Of course I have shown my attitude on the problem. The attacks to civilians by the rioters and to Chinese embassies and Terra Cotta by foreign campaigners, and the defamation of foreign media have provoked and forced patriotism among people, honestly speaking, me included.

Kate Merkel-Hess said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kate Merkel-Hess said...

Thank you, Kamisama, for stopping by and directing readers to your website (which includes a few links to both Chinese and English-language sources on the Tibet situation). It's important that we can hear voices from all places and perspectives on this matter.

I disagree with your characterization of foreign media coverage of the situation in Tibet and neighboring provinces as "defamation"--the largest story in American media has been the lack of information we are getting about what is happening there, as the Chinese government has seriously limited press access. To call this coverage "defamation" indicates that the foreign media is lying about the situation in Tibet; that's hard to do when the media has so little information to actually report.

(sorry, deleted previous post to fix typo!)

kamisama said...

Kate Merkel-Hess, thanks for your reply. I agree with you on the essence of having different opinions in mind. But as many Chinese find western media have deliberately filtered sources of information and selectively adopted certain sources, it is difficult not to see this as malice. What the western media did is nothing of journalism profession.(see the article on zonaeuropa.com and other articles by some Chinese bloggers). Meanwhile, a lot of Chinese netizens also acutely complained the government's policy of banishing reporters and considered the policy as one of the biggest reasons why the incident is distorted outside China.

Kate Merkel-Hess said...

The "Western media" isn't a unified entity, but a diverse group of different people and different organizations and companies, based in countries with various journalistic traditions and press laws. While we can certainly discuss broad narratives that have emerged in Western coverage of the situation in Tibet that slant or bias that coverage (for instance, the Western media's emphasis on the Tibetan independence movement), I don't think it's anymore helpful to say that the Western media is maliciously filtering sources of information than it is to say that Chinese media is advocating "crushing" the Tibetan protestors (as the AP reported this morning). Let's talk about specific examples in the media, and try to contextualize that coverage by publication type and their readership--and their readership's ability to think for themselves and believe (or not) what is being written on pages and pixels.

kamisama said...

All media have their attitudes uncovered or hidden, and the state-controlled Chinese media have them in the first way, which perhaps is the reason why they didn't earn reputation on journalism even within China. But the slogans of western media like "we report, you decide" are basically nonsense because under many circumstances the audience and readers are not able to form a correct impression from biased reports. It is also not appropriate to compare Chinese media with BBC,NY Times, CNN and Guardian because the latter ones don't have external pressure(like censorship) to prevent them from revealing the truth.

The links I collected have plenty of such evidence, which could not be explained by the lack of direct information resources. On http://zonaeuropa.com/200803b.brief.htm#021 the video and pictures pointed out "the German NTV, Bild Zeitung, RTL television and Washington Post which are suspected of using photos of Nepalese police beating demonstrators for Chinese police action in Lhasa. The Berliner Morgenpost and BBC mislabeled a photo of the Chinese police rescuing a civilian as arresting the person. The American television channel CNN deliberately cropped a photo that showed demonstrators throwing rocks at army trucks. The German Spiegel magazine was also accused of using misleading titles to give the wrong cue from a photo." BBC accounted the Chinese government is crushing Tibetans with a video that several Tibetans chasing and beating Han Chinese. Westerners can't tell the difference of appearance of the two ethnic groups. Times uses a title "A child taken away by police", but the story is the child was rescued by police. Although the word "take away" is not false, the title is intentionally ignoring important details. When China admits the police wounded several Tibetans after clear warnings to stop them from robbing firearms, some western media reported with the title merely saying"China admits firing on Tibetan protesters". When German media showed a picture that Nepali police were beating Tibetans, western audience can't figure out the scene is not in Tibet from the skin color and uniforms of the police. Fox news reported "Chinese troops parade handcuffed Tibetan prisoner" with an image in which Indian police were taking action. I found a term to describe these: Yellow Journalism.

Meanwhile, Economist has a reporter in Tibet several days ago, and he called the rioters "mobs". Guardian quoted some narratives of witnesses, Telegraph provided some analysis articles which contained some points. I think many westerners just knew on the first hand there is some disturbance in Tibet and the Chinese government is quelling it, and they instantly assume it must be China's fault. They didn't know how violent the disturbance was and they don't have opportunity to listen to the Han Chinese about why the riot would happen. On the other hand, as a blogger pointed out, NY Times gave much space to report the bad impression of Tibetans in Han Chinese's mind, but didn't say much about Tibetan's hatred towards the Han and Hui Chinese. Youtube and weblogs played an important role when Chinese netizens express their opinions on the issue, but till now no mainstream media have focused on them. If the western media placed equal emphasis on that the mobs killed people and robbed banks as on the actions of the government, on how Chinese think as on how protesters think, people may reexamine the Tibetan problem.

The western people don't believe a word from Chinese government or Chinese media. With one's opinions having already been determined, one can only see what is consistent with his opinion and may easily reject any facts that don't match. It is also correct for myself though. But we must pursue the actual facts however unfavored. When the audience watch the points of Chinese netizens, many of them think it is a part of Chinese propaganda or considered these Chinese have been brainwashed, and never realized the Dalai Lama and every group of interests are also propagandizing. To examine the history of the publicity during the past decades of different sides on China related problems will be very interesting, I guess.

Since I don't have much research on western media and the communication dynamics in the western society, I think Taiwanese media (which I often read on Internet) are kind of examples that journalism is seriously affected by commercial interests. TV stations and newspapers show their support to different presidential candidates so obviously that I think sometimes the news became no more credible than street rumors. Taiwanese media also simultaneously condemned Mainland on their coverage over Tibet problem, for their anti-communism tradition.