Monday, March 24, 2008

China media coverage of the Tibet situation

I am not an expert on Chinese politics nor the Tibet situation and for that reason I have never touched on political subjects in this blog. The closest I got to discussing politics was when I touched on the fact that young Chinese people never seem to discuss Mao time. So, I won’t do it more today than I have before. What I am sharing here is how we felt last week, when trying to get news about Tibet from “inside China”… You had to be there to realize how the “picture” of what was happening could be incredibly distorted!
As the Tibet violence started last week, it was amazing to see that in the matter of a couple of hours, the Yahoo news were blocked… and a few hours more, we could not even access anymore the Yahoo page all together! Some people could not even access their Yahoo email! Surprisingly, we could still visit www.cnn.com, which had “softer” headlines about what was happening. YouTube was of course also blocked, but this is not anything new.
That night, Tibet was of course a subject of conversation as we shared a few beers with some expats (it was Saint-Patrick’s day after all!)… Interesting enough, we had brought our young Chinese friend with us. I was observing him as we were talking, and the look on his face was truly saying “I don’t know what you guys are talking about”. Not surprising. So that was Monday.
Unfortunately, I don’t read or speak mandarin, so we were pretty disconnected from what the Chinese media were saying all week. We did keep up to date with the situation using my husband’s company VPN (virtual private network).
We were flying out from China Friday, and the TVs at the airport - in English interestingly – had one headline “other Asian countries support China’s action in Tibet”. They mentioned India and Pakistan. Another headline was that “China was complaining about the bias of international media”. Wow! Indeed a different angle… in a message targeted to foreigners, if we consider that most Chinese don’t speak English. Interesting complaint, when China itself does a lot more than spreading biased news… it simply blocks them! Then, on the plane, finally we could read some news on Tibet – in English – in the Hong-Kong paper, the “South China Morning Post”. It mentioned that India actually prevented some Tibetans to cross the border to China to help reduce the tensions. There is indeed a good reason for India and Pakistan to support China’s actions, and it is to avoid violence in their own countries in the border areas where some Tibetans live.
We could also read about the way China justifies its actions of restricting the news “to avoid violence to spread to other regions”… Truly, there is never “One truth”…
I will end this posting by mentioning a really interesting blog (for those of you who can reach French)… a fascinating memorandum actually signed by 30 Chinese intellectuals (names and professions included), with a very comprehensive point of view I thought. Interestingly enough, the blog itself is hosted by the French newspaper Le Monde, and I am just wondering what kind of risk these intellectuals were taking by signing this article, if the fact it was written in French was helping them not getting censured (or is this blog censured in China?), where these intellectuals resided, in China or in France, why Le Monde was hosting such a highly political blog… so many questions…
In any case, it was definitely an interesting way to “speak up” in this difficult context.
I will end this posting with all these unanswered questions but there is no doubt that last week has shown us how extensive and complex the “freedom of speech” issue truly is in China…

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