Tuesday 4 November 2014

Last week, the Irish broadcaster RTE transmitted several reports from Tibet. RTE was participating in a Chinese government-controlled media trip to the region, which RTE described as "carefully choreographed". In its reports, RTE challenged the authenticity of China's version of Tibet presented on the trip, saying a true picture "remains out of reach".
In the first of two video reports, RTE's Philip Bromwell reports from Lhasa, which he describes as a "modern, sprawling city".RTE logoDuring an interview at the Jokhang temple, a monk says he hopes Dalai Lama will return to Tibet. However, when he is asked why some Tibetans are protesting, the Chinese interpreter interrupts, the monk looks concerned and only says, "This is a difficult question for me".

In its report, RTE refers to the self-immolation protests Which China blames the Dalai Lama for inciting. In addition, China counters claims that it restricts religious freedom and expression of culture in Tibet by stating it has brought development and prosperity to Tibet. However, RTE notes China has responded to the protests with"tighter security and surveillance" which is "far from subtle", such as security cameras disguised as prayer wheels.

RTE also makes it clear that there is clear message the Chinese government wishes to convey, as Tibetans provided for interview praise the government. For example, a lecturer at a college of Tibetan medicine says, "Tibet has received support from the government and has been well-developed and grows very rapidly." At a thangka painting workshop, the manager says "Business has been better than before because the government has fully supported this business."

Philip Bromwell concludes the first report saying, "A carefully choreographed trip like this perhaps is only ever going to reveal one version of events but even inside Tibet it seems a true picture of what life is really like here remains out of reach."

In the second report, Philip Bromwell visits Kongpo prefecture (Chinese: Nyingchi) located east of Lhasa, to examine recent changes in Tibet.

The report looks at the rapid development of Tibet. Whilst showing images of construction on an industrial scale, the report says of Tibet, "One thing is clear. It's changing, quickly." As well as economic development, the report also highlights the issues of large-scale immigration of Han Chinese and tourism. In 2013, almost 13 million tourists visited the Tibet Autonomous Region, compared to a population of 3 million Tibetans.

RTE notes that China rejects criticism that Tibet's unique way of life and its environment is being threatened, by reiterating its claims to have brought prosperity to Tibet and is protecting Tibetan culture.

Philip Bromwell concludes, "This trip has given us a fascinating glimpse of a beautiful region, but in terms of seeing the true Tibet, well, that may have already disappeared from view."

Further reading & listening:
Inside Tibet - RTE's multimedia report    
Tibet: A rare insight - RTE Radio broadcast (4 minutes)

Undercover reports from Tibet:
BBC evade ban, report from inside Tibet: December 2013 (video)
BBC: Lhasa under heavy security and predominantly Chinese: Sept 2013 (audio)
France24: Seven Days in Tibet - extended undercover report: June 2013 (video)

Chinese state media reports compliments for China's work in Tibet

China's state media has reported that a senior UK politician has told a meeting in Lhasa that the “Chinese government has done a great job in developing Tibet to the current stage, where people live happily”.
The reports have not been independently verified but if correct, the comments by Lord Davidson at the Chinese government's Fourth Forum on Development of Tibet back Chinese propaganda and provide a deeply misleading picture of life for Tibetans.

Misrepresentation of Tibet

Lord Davidson described economic development in Tibet as "remarkable" and is quoted as saying:
"Many western reports are written by enthusiasts of the Dalai Lama. And they may feel uncomfortable when their presumptions or assumptions are challenged. It is uncomfortable and expensive to have their prejudice challenged."
Free Tibet Director, Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:
“We hope that the comments attributed to Lord Davidson significantly misrepresent his contribution at this event. If the reports are accurate, Lord Davidson should have acquainted himself with the facts before regurgitating China’s propaganda on Tibet.
Economic development in Tibet is far from what it seems from the window of a car or a plush meeting room in Lhasa.”

Tibetans far from 'happy'

The UN Economic, Cultural and Social Rights committee recently issued a report noting that Tibet is the worst area in China for child malnutrition. Immigration of Han Chinese people into Tibet, the use of Chinese labour and restrictions on freedom of movement for Tibetans have excluded them from most of the benefits of the economic development that has taken place.
China's heavy investment in transport infrastructure is designed to help China's security forces move quickly around Tibet and make it easier for Tibet's natural resources - including copper, gold and lithium - to be exported to China.

Western media blocked

The report stated that Lord Davidson said Western media did not report Tibet because travel there was too “costly”. In reality, international media are banned from Tibet by the Chinese government.
Chinese state media does not report criticism of its Tibet policies so it is possible that Lord Davidson also addressed issues such as human rights abuses in Tibet.
Lord Davidson is a senior spokesman for the Labour Party in the UK Parliament's House of Lords.

Take Action

Tibetans are constantly under surveillance and subject to arrest at any time. Since 2012 at least eleven singers have been arrested, joining thousands of other political prisoners in this occupied country. Pleasetake action