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)

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