Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Violence in Tibet, Protests at Olympic torch relays

Langmusi, originally uploaded by Nice Logo.

We are now back in Kunming, China. Happy to be back in China but sad to leave Laos. Since we were last here there has been lots of international protest against China in the run up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and scenes of terrible violence in Tibet.

The first protests in Lhasa and other Tibetan communities around the world occurred on the anniversary of the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule which forced Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to flee into exile in India
. These were the biggest Tibet protests in 20 years. It's terribly sad to hear that these protests turned violent and according to eye witnesses in Lhasa "Chinese and Hui Muslim places were targeted" . Tibetan sources say over 80 Tibetans were killed by the Military.

China is a great country, which should not be (as always) viewed solely by the actions of its government.

From our experience the Tibetans we met were not 'anti Chinese' but simply wanted more autonomy and freedom in their homeland. The Chinese Media is so heavily controlled it's hard for Chinese people to have a true debate on Tibet or indeed human rights in China as a whole.

We should also not forget that Tibet is not the only Chinese province to suffer barbaric treatment from its Beijing masters, as Charles Cumming highlights in a recent Guardian comment, 'Quiet death in Xinjiang'.

The Chinese government claims that the Dalai Lama is behind the violence and has even gone as far accusing
'the Dalai Lama and his supporters yesterday of plotting suicide attacks in the wake of last month's violent protests in Lhasa.'

But, Could the violence have been sparked by Chinese agent provocateurs?

There have been Military crackdowns in Tibet and around China / Tibet. The beautiful peaceful town of Langmusi (Hezuo), a small mostly Tibetan town we visited in November last year has been the site of a military crackdown after protests there. As has Labrung (Xiahe) and Lhasa. Not that much of it is reported openly/ fairly here in the heavily controlled Chinese Media. CCTV the Chinese state broadcaster has been running footage from the Lhasa riots on loop, blaming the 'Dalai Clique' and splitists for the violence, whilst avoiding the issues.

CCTV9 China's 'International', English language channel aired this 'documentary'.

Part One above, Click here for Part Two

Below is one of the reports from Channel 4 (UK) which gives some perspective from Tibetans including their allegations that over 80 Tibetans were killed by the Military.

The Dalai Lama, has said that he does not support an Olympics boycott.

Protests have followed the Olympic torch relay from Olympia to Beijing. I've been reading about some of these protests (Olympia, Athens, France, London, San Fransisco, Tibet, China) on The Guardian site, which doesn't seem to be censored or blocked here. The English language version of the BBC website is not blocked anymore in China as it was last time we were here, although the Chinese language version of the BBC site is still blocked. Most of YouTube is blocked again in China, The China Post (From Taiwan) reported that access was denied to the site 'after footage of recent deadly protests in Tibet appeared on the video posting site.'

Tourists and Journalists are being denied or given restricted access in Tibet and China.

Our site is still blocked in China and I can't find a working proxy yet. We can write, but not read it here?!

What's really sad is that whilst the activism across the world has grabbed a lot of Media attention, it doesn't seem to be having a positive effect within China. Many Chinese see it as "Anti Chinese" and may miss the pro-humanitarian concerns of many of the campaigners.

A comment on my Team Tibet film, by someone mocking the Chinese Communist Party, CCP, said "thank you "Free Tibet" Activist, thank you for taken the minds of Chinese people off of the corruption and the problems of the CCP. thank you for inciting their nationalism against all foreigners trying to sabotage the olympics. They support us now, and we've never felt more secure in power. thanks again. CCP"

The Campaigning website is launching a campaign: SAVE THE OLYMPICS, asking China 'to save the Olympics for all of us, by making specific, reasonable progress in dialogue with the Dalai Lama, securing release of Burmese and Tibetan political prisoners, and supporting peacekeeping in Darfur.' ... They explain 'our campaign aims to reach out to China and Chinese people to show that we're not anti-China but pro-humanitarian'


Our Photos from Tibet and China
Our Team Tibet film
Reports of Troubles in Tibet on: BBC, Guardian, Times
Channel 4 news reports on Youtube:
Biggest Tibet protests in 20 years, Tibet deadline passes: death toll disputed, China denies using force in Tibet
Accounts from Lhasa and beyond - BBC
The Olympic torch's shadowy past
Tensions in Tibet - BBC
Olympic Games 2008 - Guardian

The challenges of reporting in China - BBC
Tense Time at Tibetan Monastery - BBC
Tibetan Monk Speaks out
China's quandary over Tibet's future
Stories China's media could not write - BBC
Joanna Lumley talking in the Guardian about her support for Tibet
YouTube access blocked in China after Tibet clips appear - The China Post
Lonely Planet - Thorntree Travel Forum - Tibet
I predict a riot -
Björk upset the Chinese authorities by shouting 'Tibet, Tibet' during a recent concert. But can music really bring down governments? - Jeremy Kuper - The Guardian.
Brit spies confirm Dalai Lama's report of staged violence
Quiet death in XinjiangChina struggles to quell Tibet rebels
Save the Olympics - Avaaz Campaign

(Note: I have since edited this post, whilst in Hong Kong, where there are less restrictions, and added a few more links when I got back in the UK).


jac said...

Hi! As promised, the info I emailed you from the BBC website, showing how the same torch relay events have been reported differently in the UK/US/France and China.


US press

There was a tight focus on the protests and the disruption they caused.

The New York Times described the torch's progress around the city as an "elaborate game of hide-and-seek... as city officials secretly rerouted the planned torch relay, swarmed its runners with blankets of security and then whisked the torch to the airport in a heavily guarded motorcade".

The San Francisco Chronicle also focused heavily on the change of route. Under the headline: "No torch, no problem - they came to protest", the paper painted a picture of a colourful array of protesters, all with different axes to grind, both pro and anti-China.

In a strident editorial, the Washington Post reflected on the events, saying: "The Chinese are seeing for themselves how public opinion around the world has been repulsed by their government's cynical and amoral foreign policy in places such as Sudan and Burma and by its repression of the Tibetan minority."

Chinese press

Under headlines including "Olympic torch relay concludes in San Francisco without major incidents" and "Chinese ambassador: Olympic torch relay in San Francisco 'successful'", state-run news agency Xinhua generally painted a positive picture of the relay.

The protests were mentioned in Xinhua's main news story, where it reported: "At one point, Tibetan separatists tried to disrupt the torch relay. They tried to grab the torch, but were pushed back by police escorting the torch relay."

Further down, the Xinhua article states: "Many San Francisco citizens expressed dismay at attempts to link the Olympic Games with politics."

Another state-run outlet, China Daily, carried articles similar in tone, with headlines including: "San Franciscans denounce disruptions." It also published picture galleries of angry clashes between pro-China and anti-China demonstrators.


French press

There were straightforward headlines, including Le Parisien's "The fiasco" and L'Equipe's "Paris extinguishes the flame", combined with much reporting of the protests, with colour from the scene in most papers.

The left-leaning daily Liberation reported how the torch was greeted with jeers by protesters, who threw flags with an image of Olympic rings as handcuffs.

Right-leaning Le Figaro had some words of comfort for the Chinese government, arguing in an editorial: "While the defence of Tibetans is a noble cause, the gesticulations that we have witnessed over the holding of the Olympic Games in Paris are exaggerated."

The paper claims that the Beijing Olympics is a "golden opportunity" to advance the cause of liberty in China.

Chinese press

Xinhua's coverage of the Paris protests kicked off with the headline "French official lashes out at 'kidnapping of Olympics'".

In the archive of Xinhua's website, direct reporting of the protests that accompanied the torch around Paris is scant.

A one-line dispatch states: "The Olympic Torch was put on an accompanying bus due to technical reasons for the third time during its relay in the French capital Monday afternoon, a Xinhua photographer witnessed."

But there was considerable focus on the torchbearers, particularly Jin Jing, a disabled athlete who competes in the Paralympics. She was holding the torch during protests.

The Shanghai Daily reported: "A craven protester has attacked a wheelchair-bound female torchbearer from Shanghai being pushed by a blind Chinese teammate during the Paris section of the Beijing Olympics torch relay."

Xinhua also focused on Ms Jin, putting out several dispatches describing her bravery and reporting on how she received a hero's welcome when she returned home.


UK press

Even before the torch touched down in London, the British media was speculating about possible protests.

On 5 April the Times reported under the headline "Police fear Olympic torch protests after China shootings in Tibet", following up the next day with "Met on protest alert as Olympic torch lands".

The Daily Telegraph preview of the London torch route concluded that the protests were "bringing light to political murk", and the paper's website later invited its readers to answer the question: Will you be boycotting the 2008 Olympics?

The tabloids rustled up a chorus of disapproval of China, with the Daily Mirror labelling the London leg of the torch's journey a "disturbing farce".

Under the headline "flaming injustice", the Mirror said: "The oppressive security needed to protect the Olympic torch in London should ram home to China's dictators what the world really thinks of them."

Chinese press

One of Xinhua's main news stories began with a flowery passage proclaiming: "The unseasonable snow in London did little to dampen people's passion for Beijing's Olympic flame as large crowds lined the street to greet the torch relay on Sunday."

The piece went on to describe the torch as a "sacred symbol of the Olympic spirit" spreading the "ideal of peace, friendship and progress" and labelled any attempt to "sabotage" the torch relay as running "against the trend of the times".

Xinhua published several pieces devoted to the protests, under headlines including "London police foil attempt to grab Olympic torch away".

But the main focus of their coverage was the colour and carnival of the torch's procession - an interview with classical violinist Vanessa Mae was more typical.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Richard Edkins said...

Letter from

Dear Friends,

The Beijing Olympics are a crucial chance to persuade China's leaders to support dialogue and human rights in Tibet, as well as Burma and Darfur, and we need to seize it.

China wants the Olympics to be a coming out party for a newly modern, powerful, and respectable nation. But the Olympics are about humanity and excellence--we can't celebrate them in good conscience while ignoring the suffering of Tibetans and others.

So Avaaz is launching a major new campaign: SAVE THE OLYMPICS. We'll ask China to save the Olympics for all of us, by making specific, reasonable progress in dialogue with the Dalai Lama, securing release of Burmese and Tibetan political prisoners, and supporting peacekeeping in Darfur.

Our appeal will be placed on billboards and ads in major cities, in Chinese overseas publications, and we'll hire a Chinese language team to engage directly on China's lively blogs and in chatrooms. We need 10,000 donations from people from 100 countries to kickstart the campaign this week with a truly global sponsorship--click below to see the ads and donate whatever you can, however small:

Within China, where the Olympics were once seen as a victory for greater openness and internationalism, the internal debate has taken a bitter turn. Most Chinese are now growing angry over Olympic activism, seeing it as biased and "anti-Chinese."

If the games are a fiasco, China's repressive hardliners will win the day--and we could see the worst crackdown yet.

We need to stop this, and fast. So our campaign aims to reach out to China and Chinese people to show that we're not anti-China but pro-humanitarian, and that our desire is to save the 2008 Olympics, not ruin them. Click below to donate now:

The Slogan of the 2008 Olympics is "One World, One Dream". Let's reach across barriers of perception and division, and ask the Chinese to make this dream come true for us this summer.

With hope,

Ricken, Ben, Graziela, Galit, Pascal, Iain, Milena, Sabrina and the whole Avaaz Team.

PS – If you are new to Avaaz, we are a new global campaigning organization launched in January 2007 that has rapidly grown to over 3 million members in every nation on earth. The Economist magazine has written of the power of Avaaz to "Give world leaders a deafening wake up call", and we have been featured on the BBC talkshow HARDtalk. David Miliband, the UK foreign secretary, calls Avaaz "the best of the new in foreign policy". You can see the results of our last campaign fundraiser, on Burma here, and the results of our last campaign on climate change here, as well as other campaign results here. Avaaz Foundation is a legally registered non-profit organization.

ABOUT AVAAZ is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means "voice" in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in London, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Paris, Washington DC, and Geneva.

Don't forget to check out our Facebook and Myspace pages!

You are getting this message because you signed "Stand with the Burmese Protesters" on 2007-09-29 using the email address
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pixelated scraps said...

Rich! Kaz! Shame I didn't get to see you before you left Hong Kong, but it was lovely meeting you both.

Finally got the chance to sit down and go through (all) your site it. Awesome stuff. Just had to tell you that :)

Meghan and I set up a Facebook group to promote and let people know more about what's going on in Tibet and are (still) trying to organise something fr the torch relay on Friday.

FB group is at:

but I'm sure Meg has already invited you both.

Anyway, hope you're enjoying your travels through China and will hopefully see you at some point in the future! Take care and keep your voices down in China...well, at least a little ;)


Anonymous said...

You write very well.

Team Tibet Film