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Issue No.: 571 | January 2015
 

Missing the Whole Picture

Tsewang Sonam
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Why is China afraid of the media and free flow of information? 

I cannot help but notice that, by and large, India’s mainstream media refers to the Tibet issue only when there is Chinese military intrusion at the border or a widespread protest by Free Tibet activists. In their hurry to serve the news hot and spicy, they miss a great part of the Tibet story.

The Chinese government's grip over the mainland media and internet is absolute. The brutal clampdown of over a million Chinese protestors at Tiananmen Square (1989) and the Tibetan uprising (2008) with excessive force killing, detaining, and shattering the aspiration of the people for justice or rather freedom of expression was largely underplayed by the media after initially reporting the events for a few days.

Why is China afraid of the media and free flow of information? Information is squeezed and filtered before the diluted propaganda is fed to the Chinese citizens. The ongoing Hong Kong protest demanding real democracy has drawn the world's attention, yet the Chinese people in mainland China are clueless and celebrating 'Guoqing', which in Chinese means 'national celebration'. Such is the fate of the media which is seen as a threat to the Government of the ‘Peoples Republic of China” hence it is regulated rigorously. There is a striking resemblance between the aspirations of the youth protests in Hong Kong and the Tibetans inside Tibet.

So far, 132 Tibetans have set themselves ablaze in protest against the Chinese government and their demand for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Many of the new generation or young Tibetans born under the Chinese flag are resisting its rule and going to the length of self- immolating. The question arises why are Tibetan inside Tibet self immolating as a form of protest?  

The bigger picture many miss is that "China is failing to establish its effective rule over Tibet." China has been ruling Tibet for 55 years after its so called peaceful liberation by PLA troops annexing Tibet in 1959. In more than a half century rule, it has managed to achieve economic growth and modernization in Tibet. Yet, the clampdown and harsh laws have claimed the lives of thousands Tibetans inside Tibet who are frequently protesting against China's rule. China has so far failed in its objective of destroying the Tibetans' deep rooted culture and religion. Denial of basic right of free speech, movement, and religion has fuelled self immolations - a desperate action by the protesters. Ironically China is struggling to maintain a climate of peace inside Tibet by brute force. 

The Tibetan government in exile tries to build bridges with the Chinese government with the Middle Way Approach policy seeking genuine autonomy for Tibet; yet the Chinese government is reluctant and not ready to entertain even this diluted demand. China is unwilling to accept the Middle Way Policy of the Tibetan government- in- exile, which is supported by many western countries. Chinese reluctance clearly shows that China is not ready for any kind of political change in Tibet. The new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein on 16 October, 2014, said that he was discussing with Chinese authorities his visit to the troubled region of Tibet.

The grievances of Tibetans in repressed counties of Tibet where self-immolations are taking place should not be viewed through a car window and camera lens. The ground realities in Tibet would be more profound if journalists and media persons are allowed to make an in-depth report and research in Tibet along with the UN delegates.

Restrictions on foreign journalists’ access to "sensitive” areas of the country continue to be strictly enforced. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) reported in their survey that China’s ruling Communist Party continues to place hurdles for foreign journalists and the media companies that employ them, discouraging reporting on many aspects of China

On 14th March 2012, after the conclusion of the Fifth Session of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC), Prime Minister Wen Jaibo in a press conference warned the Chinese government that it needs political reform to avert a historical tragedy. The need of political reform in China is evident. In this century of information and technology, how long will the Chinese government keep its people in darkness and under its repressive laws?

TSEWANG SONAM who graduated in journalism from the Madras Christian College is 
currently doing his internship in English Media with the Central Tibetan Administration.  
 
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