China's Olympic hopes could hinge on how authorities react as the midnight deadline for Tibetan rioters to turn themselves in expires ...
Live updates on arrests at end of post.
BEIJING - It's nearly 2,000 miles from where I sit in Beijing to Lhasa, roughly the same distance as it is from Los Angeles to Detroit, or a bit further than from Paris to Moscow. For most Chinese it may as well be even further away than that. Access to websites with accurate and independent information about what is going on in Tibet and the surrounding provinces is blocked or not available in Chinese. What they do get is the official word from the government-controlled media, if they get that at all. Tibet may be a huge story in the international media, but for China it's on the bottom of page one, relegated to page two, or absent entirely.
I was talking to a Chinese co-worker today about what was going on in Tibet and came across a similar reaction to the ones I've been reading about; that the Tibetans are ungrateful, that the Chinese are bringing them progress, healthcare, education, technology, and that their feudal lifestyle of the past basically ensured their enslavement under a clique of Buddhist fundamentalists. Of course this is how the Chinese government usually puts it as well, so her reaction was not out of the norm. While some of the claims about progress may be valid, the problem with this reaction is that it fails to take into account any Tibetan views. Chinese almost never hear any Tibetan voices on how they feel about Chinese rule. They never hear about their fears of loss of culture or the influxes of ethnic Han Chinese immigrants. The reaction to the generosity (most Chinese feel they are helping the Tibetans by ruling them) China bestows on them are never heard in the Chinese press. The Dali Lama is not quoted, only caricatured as leading a thuggish, separatist clique. When an average Tibetan is eventually quoted, you can be 100 percent sure they are saying something positive about Chinese rule. No debate. End of discussion. The state-controlled Chinese press is there to accentuate the positive, not throw any doubt on the people's great experiment. I should know. I've been editing this "stuff" (self-censorship in action there) for the past year now. But more on that some other time.
It's also hard to know what to make of the statements of the Tibetan government in exile statements. They have their own word to spread and their own agenda to achieve. These protests did come at the time China is holding its major annual faux-parliamentary meetings in Beijing, and with the Olympics just five months away, the stakes couldn't be higher.
This is why tonight's midnight deadline is so important for China. Will the authorities show restraint? Or will they resort to mass arrests, house to house searches, organized brutality? And if they do, how will the international community react? Will Tibetans share the blame for the chaos if it turns for the worst? Is it largely out of the Dali Lama's hands now, if he ever did have any sway over the actions of recent days, or are certain Tibetans using him as the good-cop to their bad?
My intent in writing this post was to bring your attention to some of the news coverage on this story from the international press and blogs in China. Due to restrictions on foreign press coverage from Tibet, it's hard enough to get in there in normal times, let alone now. The Foreign Correspondents Club of China is asking the Foreign Ministry for greater access to Tibetan areas, though things move rather slowly here so I doubt their call will do much. There's currently only one correspondent inside Tibet. James Miles from The Economist happened to be there before the riots started, and is now reporting for that publication and the Times of London. His latest is a great mood piece on what it is like being in Lhasa right now as the deadline approaches. I believe the Christian Science Monitor also had someone inside Lhasa who is now out, but they do have Peter Ford roaming the provinces just outside of Tibet where clashes have started to spread.
For commentary, these are some of the latest interesting pieces ...
Kurt Streeter at the LA Times talking baseball and Beijing's image problem. He likely didn't hear about the group of Cub Scouts that were barred from the field the LA vs. SD game this Saturday. The Wall Street Journal has some history on the conflict. The London Telegraph utters the T word. At The Guardian, a spotlight on grievance. Also, just noticed this one from James Fallows at the Atlantic Monthly.
In the China blogs your first stops should be ...
Danwei and EastWestNorthSouth, which have nice collections of coverage here (some of which I can't currently get into). Xinjiang-based The Opposite End of China, for a few galleries of photos. Beijing Newspeak and Imagethief have wide-ranging commentary as always. Also check in at Cup of Cha and Black and White Cat, which both talk of web troubles, RConversation on whether discussion is possible, and Time's China Blog for updated information.
Below I'll update stories with new information as they come in on Beijing time. My rss feeds are currently sluggish and a lot of sites are hard to get to from here. If you come across stories of interest, post them in your comments.
2:10pm: A first-hand account from a tourist who had been in Lhasa during the riots at the Sydney Morning Herald.
1:50pm: From The Guardian ... after days of showing virtually nothing at all, the state-media is showing non-stop footage of ethnic Han Chinese under attack in Tibet on Friday in a ploy to stir up domestic support at the same time they block any coverage of the events by foreign media. The Independent writes that all NGOs and foreign journalists have been expelled from Lhasa, leaving few independent witnesses to what happens next.
12:56pm: In blog coverage, some good commentary and coverage at the Opposite End of China, China Matters, Mutant Palm, and Peking Duck. Also see more from James Fallows, Taiwan Matters, Sun Bin, Shanghaist, David on Formosa, and Virtual China.
12:20pm: Premier Wen Jiabao is giving a live press conference on CCTV right now.
11:24am: The U.S. has stepped up radio broadcasts into Tibet, via the VOA.
11:11am: Unconfirmed reports from ABC News that protesters have been "shot like dogs" and that soldiers have fired "indicriminately" at protesters. From Reuters, China's Premier Wen Jiabao held a press conference today, saying the Dali Lama had organized the riots.
10:34am: Some good video footage on the frontpage of The Guardian. Also some coverage at the Los Angeles Times showing how ethnic Han Chinese have been holding up to wait for tensions to die down in Lhasa. Also, the latest from the Washington Post about the arrests.
10:04am: More on the arrest of hundreds from the Toronto Star, but don't notice anything very new about the story that wasn't already in some of the ones from late last night. This from the London Telegraph is also new, but since no one is allowed to get into Tibet and reporters are being turned back from Tibetan areas in the provinces surrounding, there's little new information here.
9:36am: Went outside to go to work and found Beijing in the grips of a nasty sandstorm. Will try to find some pictures on this later.
8:15am: Jim Yardly at the IHT on Tibetan resentment.
8:05am: Some video from the Guardian about authorities here trying to keep protests from being seen by the rest of the world, which also means I can't see it within China. The Guardian editor has written a letter to the Chinese embassy complaining of the blocking of news. Basically at the moment, we're only able to see happy scenes like this ...
7:51am: Taiwan's presidential elections are this coming Saturday and already there's been a bit of a spillover from the Tibet crisis into that race. The DPP candidate Frank Hsieh is saying the island could become another Tibet if KMT candidate Ma Ying-jeou wins the election. More at the Financial Times.
7:43am: An update from Christian Science Monitor reporter Peter Ford in Xining on how frustrating it is covering this story, even outside Tibet were foreign reporters are supposed to have greater freedom to do their work. Richard Spencer is also reporting similar problems trying to report the story.
7:12am: A bit on the pro-Tibet vigil in Beijing last night at Reuters. Unfortunately I can't read this story because it's blocked.
12:12am: No new updates since the deadline has passed. Will continue to try to find something new to post.
10:37pm: Over a dozen journalists from Hong Kong were expelled from Tibet either today or over the last few days. This report doesn't give a ton of information.
10:24pm: The London Times is reporting that handcuffed Tibetan prisoners are being paraded through Lhasa in the backs of trucks. Also today, Tibetan students in Beijing staged a silent protest at the National Minorities University.
9:47pm: The Financial Times now reports that Chinese police are rounding up suspected Tibetan protesters, confirming earlier Washington Post reports.
9:12pm: A story from The Guardian on China's efforts to block international news stories and broadcasts.
9:10pm: And so it begins, and before the deadline. The Washington Post is reporting that hundreds of Tibetans have been rounded up in house-to-house searches in Lhasa.
8:53pm: At Reuters, the daughter of the late 10th Panchen Lama urges ethnic unity.